Internet backbones in space

Giacomo Giuliari, Tobias Klenze, Markus Legner, David Basin, Adrian Perrig and Ankit Singla


Several “NewSpace” companies have launched the ￿rst of thousands of planned satellites for providing global broadband Internet service. The resulting low-Earth-orbit (LEO) constellations will not only bridge the digital divide by providing service to remote areas, but they also promise much lower latency than terrestrial fiber for long- distance routes. We show that unlocking this potential is non-trivial: such constellations provide inherently variable connectivity, which today’s Internet is ill-suited to accommodate. We therefore study cost–performance tradeffs in the design space for Internet routing that incorporates satellite connectivity, examining four solutions ranging from naïvely using BGP to an ideal, clean-slate design. We find that the optimal solution is provided by a path-aware networking architecture in which end-hosts obtain information and control over network paths. However, a pragmatic and more deployable approach inspired by the design of content distribution networks can also achieve stable and close-to-optimal performance.

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