China launches high-orbit satellite internet that could challenge SpaceX’s Starlink

China has completed the set-up of its first high-orbit satellite communication network, which could serve as an alternative to SpaceX's Starlink. The network is expected to provide internet service for various industries and cover areas in China as well as several belt and road nations.


China completes setup of high-orbit satellite communication network

China announced that it has completed the initial set-up of its first high-orbit satellite communication network. This network is expected to provide a swift satellite internet service within China and in several belt and road nations. According to a Beijing-based communications expert, this Chinese project could be an alternative to SpaceX's Starlink.

The parent company of the satellite operator, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, stated that the network would provide internet service for industries ranging from aviation and navigation to emergency services and energy. This development is a part of China's effort to boost infrastructure links and connectivity across Asia, Africa, and Europe through its Belt and Road Initiative.

China's high-orbit satellite network coverage

The high-orbit satellite network includes high-throughput satellites ChinaSat 16, 19, and 26. These satellites cover not only China but also parts of Russia, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, India, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This coverage encompasses a significant portion of the area included in the Belt and Road Initiative.

By 2025, the total capacity of China's high-throughput satellites is expected to exceed 500 Gbps. Earlier this year, China became the first country to offer smartphones with satellite calling features connected to similar high-orbit satellites positioned 36,000km away.

Comparison with SpaceX's Starlink

The high-orbit satellite network launched by China can be compared with SpaceX's Starlink. While Starlink consists of mass-produced low-orbit satellites, China's network requires far fewer satellites for coverage. This is because high-orbit satellites cover a broader area compared to low-orbit satellites.

According to Sun Yaohua, an associate professor in information and communication engineering, the high-orbit system offers higher stability as there are no issues when a connected device switches between satellites. On the other hand, low-orbit satellites in the Starlink system provide higher communication speeds and low transmission delays, making them suitable for businesses like online HD videos and financial exchanges.