A startup backed by the Chinese government wants to build a Starlink rival

When ready, the constellation will have 13,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.
Ameya Paleja
China wants to build a 13,000 satellite strong constellation for space-based internet
China wants to build a 13,000 satellite strong constellation for space-based internet


Elon Musk's satellite-based internet service Starlink faces some tough competition ahead. SatNet might be a largely unknown name in the satellite internet market but is being backed by the Chinese government as it takes the first step toward building a satellite internet network, Universe Today reported.

Musk's Starlink is synonymous with satellite-based internet services around the globe. When disaster struck the island of Tonga, or Russia attempted to break connectivity in Ukraine, Musk's Starlink rushed in and saved the day.

Many others have attempted to replicate this, but projects have either been stalled or are just reaching closer to operational capabilities, even years after Starlink began offering services. SatNet is a lesser-known Chinese company that the government is backing to establish its own satellite constellation.

Race for Space

China's attempts to outdo the US in global affairs also extend to space. The country is building its space station, wants to set up a base on the Moon, and is now looking to establish a large constellation for satellite internet codenamed "Guo Wang." Roughly translated from Mandarin, the word means "state network" and will consist of 13,000 satellites in low Earth orbits (LEO).

According to estimates, the satellite internet market is expected to reach $22.27 billion by the decade's end at a compound annual growth rate of 13.6 percent. The number of satellite internet users is expected to double to 110 million. Still, for all its popularity, Starlink's market share is a meager 3.5 percent, the Universe Today report said.

The Chinese government opened the satellite internet market to private players nearly a decade ago. Still, it has not led to the development of a Starlink-like entity thus far. Now, it follows the format of other governments backing satellite internet startups with significant funding to fuel their global growth.

The Starlink rival

On July 9, a prototype internet satellite from SatNet was successfully launched aboard the Long March 2C carrier rocket from China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite is now in orbit and used to validate broadband satellite technology.

A startup backed by the Chinese government wants to build a Starlink rival
Stock image of a rocket launch

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) filings, SatNet intends to set up two constellations. One will operate in the 37.5 to 42.5 GHz bandwidth facilitating space-to-Earth communication, while the other in the 47.2 to 51.4 GHz region for Earth-to-space communication.

The project, although led by SatNet, is backed by the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), one of China's largest state-owned enterprises.

Earlier in June, GalaxySpace, another Beijing-based space startup launched an experimental plate-shaped satellite that is designed to enable high-speed communication between in-orbit satellites and ground stations, Interesting Engineering then reported. GalaxySpace has also enjoyed financing from the China International Capital Corporation (CICC), which the government supports.

As Starlink looks to expand its presence globally, China is preparing to give it a tough fight, something that even private US players have failed to do so far.

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