Elon-haters and doubters look at his challenges in isolation. They say Twitter will fail because it will not get enough new advertisers and will continue to lose money. They ignore the fact that Elon, like Obi Wan Kenobi, has the high ground. Elon does not have to fight on an even playing field. He does not have to make Twitter compete with the same mix of technologies as Facebook or Youtube.
Here is how the 30-50 batches of SpaceX Gen 2 satellites launched in 2023 change the game. SpaceX wants to launch Starlink Gen 2 satellites every week or two in 2023.
SpaceX is moving up the timeline for launching its new Starlink Gen2 satellites. In a new set of FCC filings, the first Gen2 Starlink nodes operational as soon as this month (December 2022). This could reduce congestion and boost speeds that have been falling all year as more consumers get connected to Starlink. SpaceX Gen 2 Starlink satellites will also have a massive foldout antenna and will copy the AST Space Mobile Bluewalker direct to cellphone communication. SpaceX already announced a partnership with T-Mobile for this direct to cellphone service.
Initially, SpaceX planned to use Starship to launch the Gen2 satellites. The Gen2 satellites are about 23 by 10 feet (7 by 3 meters), whereas the current design is 10 by 5 feet (3 by 1.5 meters). SpaceX redesigned the first Starlink Gen 2 to fit in the Falcon 9. SpaceX will still launch regular full size Gen 2 satellites when Starship is flying.
The FCC granted Starlink a license to launch up to 7,500 of the planned 30,000.
SpaceX has a Starlink launch scheduled for Dec. 28. If it’s serious about sending up the first Gen2 satellites this month, it must be planning to use that launch to do it.
A single Starship Gen2 launch using the current satellite and rocket designs and carrying 54 satellites could potentially deploy around 7-8 times more usable bandwidth than a Falcon 9 with Starlink V1.5.
A Falcon 9 launch of mini Gen 2 will likely be vertically positioned in the faring instead of flat and horizontal. Falcon 9’s established performance of roughly 16.5 tons (payload adapter included) to LEO means that the rocket will be limited to around 12 or 13 Gen2 satellites per launch.
If SpaceX can squeeze that many Starlink Gen2 satellites inside of Falcon 9’s existing reusable fairing, it could still boost the efficiency (total bandwidth per launch) of each Starlink mission by ~50% relative to the same rocket carrying 50-60 Starlink V1.5 satellites.
The big gamechanger for Twitter will be that the Gen 2 satellites will enable 2-4 mbps of communication direct to T-mobile customers with regular cellphones. One launch will put up more direct-to-cellphone communication than what AST Space Mobile plans for all of 2023. Five launches and SpaceX will have more direct to cellphone communication than Iridium to their satellite phones. If SpaceX gets fifty Gen 2 Falcon 9 launches they will have 600 Gen 2 satellites and at least 1.2-1.8 Gbps of total capacity.
Starlink offers open internet access and will continue to offer open internet access. They offer the 100-300 mbps connection from the satellite dish. They will also have text and voice direct to your cellphone (no dish) anywhere on earth without deadzones via partners like T-mobile. I believe they will also use the direct to cellphone via satellite as a means to put Twitter front and center. Just like Google gets all Android phones to default to Google search and Chrome browser. Apple has all iPhones default to the Safari browser. I believe SpaceX will also arrange to have better antennas on cars and on special phones for those who want more bandwidth direct to their cellphone from Starlink satellites.
If SpaceX Starship were get working to deliver satellites late in 2023, then the rate of overall Starlink Gen 2 launches could increase by four times per launch and the launch rate would increase.
If SpaceX arranges for improved antennas on cellphones or on their cars, they could increase the bandwidth. If SpaceX improves the orbiting antenna they could reach the AST Spacemobile target of 30 Mbps per satellite. The first 7500 Gen 2 satellites with improved direct to cellphone bandwidth could have 225 Gbps of total capacity.
Twitter has about 200 billion tweets per year. Twitter plans to increase tweet character limitd from 280 characters to 4,000, an increase of 14 times the current maximum. 4 kb Tweets would mean 800 GB to transmit. 600 Gen 2 satellites with at least 1.2-1.8 Gbps of total capacity can easily handle all ten times or one hundred times the Tweets, audio, pictures and even short video.
SpaceX and T-mobile can offer anywhere in world with no deadzone text, voice and audio-short video Twitter. Payments could also be transmitted. A $10 per month anywhere text and limited voice could be expanded to a better direct-to-phone twitter experience. Better service could justify a better per month charge. If 20% of the T-mobile 120 million subscribers signed up that would be 24 million customers.
If the other cellphone providers joined, then this could rapidly scale to a billion customers worldwide. The fully deployed 30,000 satellites with 30 Mbps would be anywhere communication heading toward global anywhere 2G (9.5 kbps levels). SpaceX and Twitter could split $20 per month after the cellphone companies get $10-15 per month.
Elon own SpaceX. SpaceX has 70% of all of the satellites in orbit now. SpaceX launches 90% of the satellites by weight.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.