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LinkSure to launch Wi-Fi satellite

By Cheng Yu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-30 09:32
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An Yang, chief scientist of LinkSure's satellite project, introduces the company's satellite system at a press conference in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese free internet access provider LinkSure Network announced a major plan to launch China's first Wi-Fi satellite next year, aiming to provide free Wi-Fi globally by 2026, as more internet companies eye the burgeoning satellite sector to boost their business.

According to the company, a total of 3 billion yuan ($431 million) will be invested to send 272 satellites into space. The first one will be sent from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Gansu province by 2019.

Similar to Elon Musk's Space X plan, the Shanghai-based internet firm said the satellites will be used to expand internet coverage and boost internet speed.

"The very starting point of such a plan is to offer free internet connections to people around the world, especially those in undeveloped areas or rough terrain," said Wang Xiaoshu, rotating president of LinkSure Network.

The fresh move came as China encourages private companies to enter the country's space industry, which is expected to reach 800 billion yuan by 2020 in terms of market value.

During this process, private internet companies are flocking in, hoping to grab a slice of the cake in the lucrative sector.

LinkSure is not the first. Chinese tech conglomerate Alibaba Group sent a communication satellite earlier this month to support its online shopping gala, while startup COMMSAT will send seven satellites at the same time in December for IoT (internet of things) use.

"Satellite connection will be a great supplement to the ground network. The ground network, which relies on stations, has limitations due to, for example, weather and land form," noted An Yang, chief scientist of LinkSure's satellite project.

"On a global scale, the number of satellites far from meet the huge demand for communication. The future of the communication sector must be a combination of space and ground," he said.

Under the plan, An added that revenue will come from its services to high-end users as well as those providing to areas that the ground network or IoT are unable to reach.

LinkSure Network, which was founded in 2013, was one of China's first providers of free public internet access services. Its core product, Wi-Fi Master Key, has more than 800 million active monthly users globally.

The company became a unicorn - a startup valued at more than $1 billion - in 2015 by raising $52 million in its A-round of financing.

Given the long-term satellite program, rotating head Wang Xiaoshu noted that the company is considering introducing some outside investors, but denied this will be directly related to the future financing of its parent company LinkSure. "(The satellite project) is very likely to become an independent business."

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