Modern communication depends on satellites. The idea originated with Arthur C. Clarke in 1945, and engineers have been using and improving them ever since. It’s hard to count all of the ways that they impact the modern world, but they are so important that it is worth making an attempt.
They Make Communication Possible
Signals can travel through wires, but it’s difficult and expensive to lay wires through the ocean. Many poor or isolated islands, such as Easter Island, lack the infrastructure to use wired communications, and they depend on satellites to provide a wireless alternative.
They Were The First Satellites
The world’s first artificial satellite was Sputnik, which launched in 1957. It was little more than a ball with a radio transmitter, but it still launched the space race. It proved that communications satellites were possible, and that was enough to get everybody interested.
Radio broadcasting equipment can be expensive, but amateurs have managed to put a few satellites into space. These satellites made radio broadcasting possible for many more people, which opened up new opportunities for independent media groups and gave the people a stronger voice.
Remote Internet Access
Satellites bring the Internet to isolated areas. The infrastructure for cable Internet service is expensive, so many companies are reluctant to expand to regions with low population density. Fortunately, satellites can cheaply provide coverage to a wide area, so even isolated homes can get connected.
Terrestrial radio broadcasts are restricted to fairly small areas because there are structures that interfere with the transmission. The path to and from space is relatively clear, so that isn’t a problem for satellite radio. That fact allows broadcasts to spread over an unprecedented area, which brings people together through shared media.
The low cost of a satellite compared to laying large cable networks also help the television industry. Satellite television is more widely available than cable, and it opens up many avenues for competition among providers. That leads to a greater variety of quality programming for the consumer, which ensures that even people with narrow interests can find something that they like.
Reliable Phone Service
Satellites offer significant power to communication networks. There are a variety of factors that can interfere with broadcasts from stations on the ground. While communication companies have long known how to reduce the impact on those factors, satellites still provide an extra layer of security because they are immune to many of the normal problems.
Satellites are getting cheaper every day. Since they cover a very wide area, they can often be cheaper than building towers on the ground, especially in areas that would need a large number of broadcasting stations. Relying on them can lower the cost of maintaining a communication network, which often translates into lower prices for consumers.