After SpaceX Starlink upgrading to terabit space satellite internet

It’s going to cost the mobile-phone companies, chipmakers, device manufacturers and software developers about $200 billion a year in research and capital spending to get 5G fully deployed. Next generation space-based satellites could entirely replace the ground-based fiber and cell towers as a lower cost and more maintainable infrastructure.

There are some estimates that mass production of small low earth orbit internet satellites could drop to $100,000 each. SpaceX low-cost launch could make building, replacing and upgrading internet satellites at lower-cost than cell towers. Cell towers have land leasing costs.

Instead of networks of 4000 to 12,000 internet satellites there could be 500,000. An entire space network of 500,000 could be swapped out for $60 billion.

They would not need fiber because they would send multi-terabit lasers through space. Space based satellites could replace cell tower on a one for one basis.

The US Army is already testing laser communication with cubesats and could make minor modifications to get to 2.5 gigabit per second speeds.

Lasers clearly can have terabit per second communication speed. There would be many issues to achieve this in terms of targeting. Low Earth Satellites with hyperefficient propulsion could maintain lower orbits of 150 kilometers. This would reduce latency from 30 milliseconds to a little less than 10 milliseconds.

Arxiv – Design Considerations for a 5G Network Architecture

According to, there are currently about 120,000 cell towers in the US.

Other estimates are 307,626 cell towers in 2016.
Average cost of building a cell phone tower – $175,000+
Average yearly cell phone tower lease rate – $45,000+
Lowest annual cost to lease a cell tower – $100

5G network architects predict the need to support a 1000-fold increase in traffic compared to 2010.

Assuming only one additional small cell per current tower for 5G that doubles the current number of towers. These new cells may not need full-size towers, however, because they may be placed on buildings and will be located in more densely populated areas. But that does not negate the fact that the available real estate must be found, then purchased or leased, properly zoned, and power and backhaul utilities run to the locations.

5G may need an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 NEW cell sites on top of existing towers.

Optical satellite backbones in space are already 1.5 times faster than backbones on the ground