It looks like Facebook is preparing for another tilt at satellite internet - this time without Elon Musk

A company with links to Facebook has begun building a satellite facility and hopes to deliver internet speeds from space 10 times faster than Elon Musk’s Starlink project.

Last week, PointView Tech LLC filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission seeking authorisation to “launch and operate a single low-earth orbit” satellite known as the “Athena” satellite.

The request also called for “earth stations” to communicate with the satellite on a mission to determine whether the little used E-band spectrum could “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world”.

PointView wants to launch Athena in early 2019 to kick off a two-year test run. It will be built by Space Systems Loral which already has a contract for launch as a secondary payload on European launch provider Arianespace Vega.

The earth stations will be located in California, and contact with Athena on the crucial E-band spectrum will be for just eight minutes, four times a day.

According to IEEE Spectrum, PointView’s E-band system can deliver up to 10GB per second, much faster than potential rival systems from SpaceX, OneWeb and Virgin Group.

But to compete, PointView needs to match their stated capacities of at least 2500 LEO satellites, and that also means convincing authorities that the risk of collisions will be minimised.

Regardless, PointView is pushing on and hoping for permission later.

“PointView has begun construction of the proposed satellite facilities at its own risk,” it says in its application.

But who are PointView?

IEEE says a paper trail points “leads to Facebook in California”.

PointView has the same corporate agent in Delaware as other Facebook subsidiaries. Its application to the FCC was filed by the same firm, and same lawyer that wrote Facebook’s previous FCC applications.

The same agent also managed the Facebook subsidiary that ran Facebook’s early connectivity tests.

And one of PointView’s earth stations is located in the same LA business park where Facebook was reported to have leased 7400 square metres of office space in October last year.

It’s currently being refurbished. Facebook currently has a job listing out for an “extra-terrestrial product manager” based in that office.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has for years made his intentions to beam an internet service from space well-known.

His last effort, the AMOS-6 satellite built for Facebook’s program, was destroyed when the SpaceX rocket it was to be launched on exploded during a pre-launch test in September 2016.

If the links to PointView are solid, it looks like Zuckerberg isn’t trusting Musk with his baby this time around.

You can read more about PointView’s application here at IEEE Spectrum.

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