Low Orbit, High Stakes

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All-In on the LEO Broadband Competition

The competition to provide broadband from low Earth orbit (LEO) is one of the most important, least appreciated geostrategic developments underway. Policymakers in Washington have yet to consider the economic and strategic implications of LEO satellite constellations, which promise to dramatically improve coverage in underserved markets and bring more of the world online. In addition to reaping vast commercial rewards, nations with leading LEO broadband providers could enjoy increased resiliency in their communications, accuracy in positioning services, and even enhanced early warning capabilities.

An elite group of companies, primarily from the United States and Europe, are on the cutting edge of these efforts. But China has its own plans for LEO broadband, deep pockets of state funding to pursue those ambitions, and political ties to leverage through its Belt and Road Initiative. As the LEO broadband competition intensifies, policymakers need an accessible guide to these developments and recommendations for advancing U.S. interests.

This report is made possible by support from Amazon Kuiper and SpaceX.

Akhil Thadani

Akhil Thadani

Former Research Associate, Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies