US startup, Cloud Constellation is planning a celestial information superhighway: A network of low earth orbit satellites, dubbed Spacebelt, that will act as orbiting data storage devices and provide secure and encrypted communication between any two points on most of the earth’s surface without the traffic having to touch any terrestrial communications infrastructure.
The company says its service will appeal to any company unwilling to store data within another country’s jurisdiction and wanting to keep its communications away from any possible interception, including legal interception by law enforcement agencies.
The satellites, weighing abut 1000kg each will be in equatorial orbit at a height of about 800kms. Data will be carried from users’ ground terminals to the satellites by radio and relayed between satellites using laser beams. There will be no need for intermediate earth stations. Coverage will be available over most of the globe, except the polar regions.
The 10 satellites between them will have between 40 and 60 petabytes of storage, although half of this capacity will be used to backup data in primary storage.
Cloud Constellation co-founder and CEO, Scott Sobhani, told Computerworld that the company hoped to have all its satellites launched by late 2018 and to be able to offer commercial services from early 2019.
The company announced in March that it had completed series A funding and Sobhani said: “We believe that by the end of November or December we will be complete with our series B funding.”
He said the company had received letters from four global satellite manufacturers – which it is not presently able to name – attesting to the technical feasibility of its plans, and that one of these had come with an offer to invest in the system.
The CEO said that the company estimated its initial investment to build and launch the 10 satellites at about $US450 million and believed it would be able to reach breakeven within two years.
The key selling points will be the extremely high level of security and the low latency of the system, Sobhani said: “The internet has lots of hops and stops and monitoring by Governments that is legal, and it has public headers on the packets, because that is the way traffic is routed.
“In our system there are no public headers, and there are four layers of encryption: the RF [radio frequency signal] is encrypted; the data layer is encrypted; the customer will have their own layer of encryption; and we have multifactor authentication keys. It will be virtually impossible to break because of the military grade encryption we are putting in.”
Another key feature of the system, Sobhani said would be its ability to deliver data between any two points on most of the globe with latency of less than one third of a second.
Sobhani said Cloud Constellation had initially intended to make secure storage its main offering, rather than secure, low latency communications. “When we started we were thinking about storage above the earth to protect data and then we realised what we had created was a backbone network that avoided congested peering points, that avoided the expensive transit costs and where we could move traffic without all the hops,” the CEO said.
The company is also targeting another application where it sees its low latency and relatively direct links will give it an edge. It has trademarked the name ‘Spacebelt Studios’ for a service that will carry high definition TV traffic across the globe for live events that require simultaneous participation from people in two locations on different sides of the globe.
According to Sobhani, at present there is about 20 second delay because video error correction must be applied at several points in both directions to ensure studio’s demanding video quality requirements are met. “They pretend it is live, but they are playing lots of parlour tricks. We have figured out how to do that with less than one second delay. It will be a big money making opportunity for studios.”