Mini-Fridge Satellite

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced they’re leading an $13.5m investment in Astranis, a startup focused on building commercial telecommunications satellites.

Satellite internet has prompted a “new space race” between companies competing to launch devices and establish networks capable of reaching areas where traditional broadband falls short.

There are still 4B people on Earth without internet access, the majority of which live in rural areas, where broadband service isn’t available. Satellite internet has been touted as a solution to this since the mid-’90s, but traditionally operate 22k miles above Earth, in what’s called geosynchronous orbit, which has been too slow in responding to requests. Satellites in low Earth orbit cover less territory and have to launch a lot more which is extremely expensive.

Astranis’s satellites are about the size of a mini-fridge and are a fraction of the cost of other models (only tens of millions of dollars). Astranis will launch its satellites into farther away from Earth and sell bandwidth to internet service providers, allowing it to reach users in more remote areas. Astranis manufactures its satellites in San Francisco and expects to launch its first commercial satellite in 2019.

Why it’s Hot: Although it won’t solve some of the long-standing latency issues, it could provide a cheaper solution for making internet more readily available in previously out-of-range regions. It could be immensely beneficial to emerging markets, which often suffer from poor connectivity issues.