Apple may be funding Boeing Internet satellite development

OneWeb satellite concept. Via OneWeb, 

OneWeb satellite concept. Via OneWeb

An interesting piece of speculation arrived at Apple World Today this morning via a reader who pointed us to a blog post by Tim Farrar of TMF Associates, a consulting firm providing technical and financial analysis regarding the telecom and satellite industries. Farrar, referring to last week's Satellite 2017 conference, says that "I heard from a number of sources at Satellite 2017 that Boeing's V-band development work is being funded by Apple, which is clearly trying to find the next big thing and has been exploring cars, TVs and other large market opportunities."

Many of the large satellite manufacturers, including Boeing, are seeing the market for large satellites in geosynchronous orbit dry up, with estimates for 2017 in the range of only 13 and 17 satellites. Farrar notes that "All satellite manufacturers now need to play in the LEO/MEO world" -- the low Earth orbit/medium Earth orbit range much closer to the Earth's surface. 

Image showing satellite "footprints" for a low-earth orbit broadband constellation. Source: Boeing

Image showing satellite "footprints" for a low-earth orbit broadband constellation. Source: Boeing

Two years ago, Boeing announced that it was interested in making a deal with "top technology companies such as Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc or Apple Inc." As Farrar points out, Google and Facebook have now lost interest in satellites, and Amazon.com is looking into its own efforts through Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin. What does that leave of the big four technology companies? Apple

There's probably more to the Apple rumor than just idle back-room chatter at Satellite 2017. As Farrar mentions, Apple "It's not hard to discern why Apple might want to consider a satellite constellation, when SpaceX came out with a business plan last year that suggested SpaceX alone could generate $30B in revenue from satellite internet by 2025."

Owning its own broadband internet "pipe" could vastly expand lucrative Apple's services business, not only by bringing in revenue from internet connections but also competing directly with telecom/cable companies like Comcast in VoIP telecommunications and streaming video.

Farrar ends his piece with a word of caution:

Just as in the car market there’s no guarantee that Apple would take this project forward to full deployment, but with SpaceX, SoftBank and now apparently Apple becoming enthusiastic about non-geostationary satellite systems, in addition to most of the main satellite operators, it seems that a dramatic reshaping of industry priorities is underway.
— TMF Associates blog, http://tmfassociates.com/blog/2017/03/10/eccentric-orbits/