A Chinese technology company has unveiled the first satellite in an ambitious plan to provide free Wi-Fi service around the globe by 2026.
The satellite, developed by Shanghai-based LinkSure Network, will be launched into space with the Long March rocket at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-west China next year. Another 10 satellites will be launched by 2020 and the constellation will have 272 satellites in total.
People would be able to gain free access to internet services provided by the system and browse the web in remote regions where telecom networks do not cover, according to the company.
Similar space-bound internet systems are under development by various tech companies, including Google, SpaceX, OneWeb, Facebook and Canada-based Telesat.
Named the LinkSure Swarm Constellation System, the Chinese mobile internet firm set up its official satellite team in 2016 and plans to invest 3 billion yuan (£338 million) into the project, according to China Daily citing CEO Wang Jingying.
Despite the sky-high cost, the system is expected to be applied in communication, navigation, environment monitoring and other areas.
Chinese aerospace technologist Huang Zhicheng said space projects have always been risky and costly, adding that such projects do not see returns for several years and investors should be patient.
According to statistics released by the United Nations, 3.9 billion users still did not have access to the Internet at the end of 2017.
A previous report published by Morgan Stanley estimates the space industry will grow into an economy worth more than US$1.1 trillion (£861 billion) by 2040.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk first pitched his global broadband system in 2015, called Starlink, with the aim of boosting capacity and reducing latency in heavily populated areas.
The original plan consisted of 4,425 satellites and the US Federal Communications Commission this month approved its plans to launch another 7,518 satellites into orbit, bringing the total number to a massive network of 11,943 satellites.
In February this year, the project successfully launched the first two Starlink demo satellites, named Tintin A and Tintin B from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California.
By Kelsey Cheng for MailOnline