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Geely’s LEO Constellation for Mobile Vehicle Connectivity

It will be interesting to watch the mobile vehicle solutions of and competition between Geely and Tesla/Starlink.

The Geely Holding Group (GHG) is a private Chinese conglomerate that is highly diversified but best known as an auto manufacturer that envisions itself as a “global mobile technology group.” GHG announced this week that it has begun construction of an intelligent satellite production and testing facility that will include modular satellite manufacturing, satellite testing, satellite R&D, and cloud computing centers.

They will be capable of producing a variety of different satellite models, but the immediate goal is to produce satellites for a constellation of LEO satellites capable of offering low-latency internet connectivity plus cloud and edge computing to support in-vehicle entertainment, navigation, over-the-air software updates and level 4 and later level 5 (full automation) autonomous vehicles. (For a summary of the definitions of SAE’s six levels (0-5) of vehicle autonomy, click here and for a detailed definition click here). Note that in addition to car companies, GHG has interests in trucking, high-speed trains, and even passenger drones.

Reuters reported that GHG is investing $326 million in the project, aims to make 500 satellites a year by 2025, and will begin launching satellites this year. Geely sold 2.18 million cars last year and will be adding satellite functionality to their cars as well as those of other GHC companies, including Volvo and Daimler.

The illustration on the GHG press release shows a CubeSat, so they are evidently not interested in competing with SpaceX and other would-be broadband ISPs, at least for now. (Three other Chinese companies are working on LEO broadband constellations). Regardless, they will compete with broadband LEO satellite providers for mobile vehicle applications, and it will be interesting to watch the mobile vehicle solutions of and competition between Geely and Tesla/Starlink.

Update Feb 02, 2021:

Geely has officially launched its internet satellite project in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province, with an investment of 4.12 billion yuan ($637 million). The project is located in the Qingdao Shanghe demonstration zone, which is the location of other projects in support of the Belt and Road Initiative. I assume that being located within the demonstration zone means they are receiving some subsidy—perhaps free land or tax breaks like states and cities often give to attact business in the US. (Remember the Amazon headquarters bidding war a couple years ago)? For an explanation of the somewhat opaque system of local government, national government and private financing of Chinese space ventures, listen to or read the transcript of this podcast inteverview of China-space expert Blaine Curcio.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com.

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