Just in November 11, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the second batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, the first one having launched in May this year. These will form part of the more than 4,000 satellites that will build a constellation of broadband internet which will envelope the globe in this multi-year project.
SpaceX’s grand objective, based on its filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states: “The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide.”
This system will provide a space-based alternative to cable, fiber-optics and the other terrestrial internet access currently available. But why, despite the failed attempts two decades ago due to the growth of mobile telephone networks, and the arrival of 5G?
SpaceX is betting that demand for connectivity is only going to grow in the years ahead, with 44% or 3.4 billion of the world’s population still having no access to the Internet. Apart from that, “We do have crappy internet,” asSpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, argued in October. “Does everyone like their internet? Anyone? Nope. Anybody paying less than like 80 bucks a month for crappy service? Nope. Okay. There we go. That’s why we’re gonna be successful.”
This is the future of the Internet, a potentially consolidated one that operates on a global scale, providing low-latency, and inexpensive Internet services. In fact, the 2019 report of the Internet Society already spoke about consolidation in the Internet economy – “from the dominance of Facebook in social messaging, Google in search and Amazon in online shopping, the largest Internet platforms are capturing fundamental human interactions”. Hence, SpaceX has the potential to capture the dominant global market position.
The trend is pointing to this direction. The Internet economy, the ecosystem of users, content, services, and providers, is evolving into a “total service environment”. The Internet Society describes these environments as Internet platforms that provide“a range of communications, entertainment, and productivity and lifestyle services and tools designed to be incredibly convenient.” Furthermore, “these environments provide default one-stop shop access to the Internet. To keep users engaged and continue to grow revenues, the Internet platforms expand into new service and content areas.”
In addition, “full service environments operate at a scale that allows entrepreneurs to do things they could not otherwise, like access a far larger customer base, resources, and expertise that no small business could tap using its own limited resources or time. While platform environments unleash huge opportunities, they could also limit innovation by promoting the interests of the platforms over those of users, thereby limiting competition and user choice.”
Indeed, total service environments have their downsides too. “This dominance, and the finances and reach that accompany it, enable the platforms to extend their influence and reach into new market spaces, from autonomous vehicles, to AI, to cloud services and beyond. This leverage is built on unprecedented network effects, vast troves of user data, business agility, and regulatory freedom that few other companies enjoy,” as the report further avers.
This means that “Internet’s functionality and interoperability in the hands of immensely powerful ecosystems, whose interests may not align with those of others”. Cyber threats are projected to increase by nearly 70% over the next 5 years, according to the latest study of Juniper Research. Moreover, the cost of data breaches will rise from $3 trillion each year to more than $5 trillion in 2024, an average annual growth of 11%.
The dominance of only a few players in the consolidated Internet economy means a only a few weak points but potentially global impact. “While the risk of catastrophic failure may be minimal, it could create a domino effect for other parts of the global economy.”
Hence, organization need to be cognizant of the threats in cyberspace, and how to mitigate them, while maximizing the Internet’s potential to enhance innovation and reach new markets.
It’s opportune time that the global event, Cloudflare Connect is coming to Manila on December 5, 2019 at ASPACE Makati, where information technology, digital, and cybersecurity professionals, business executives, and subject matter experts gather together to understand and learn about the future of Internet technology. More information in this link https://www.cloudflare.com/connect/manila2019/.
The author is CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation firm. He is the Chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at [email protected]