SpaceX wants to launch 4,000 satellites into orbit that would be used to beam down high-speed Internet from the heavens. CEO Elon Musk said the effort would essentially be like rebuilding the Internet in space.

The company filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission to begin testing last month. If approved, testing could get under way as early as next year. A commercial service, one that would provide telecoms like AT&T and Comcast with fresh competition, could be ready by 2020.

The idea of launching a collection of satellites to provide Internet to our blue planet isn’t exactly new as entrepreneurs and business tycoons have dreamed of doing so for decades. Most serious attempts, however, have failed to get off the ground.

Most recently, Facebook is said to have cancelled its satellite Internet plans due to the massive cost involved (upwards of $1 billion). The social network was reportedly concerned that it wouldn’t be able to recoup its investment.

Musk believes he’s solved many of the roadblocks that have held others up. Instead of building a single massive satellite, SpaceX wants to launch thousands of smaller satellites that would be more efficient and less expensive to replace. What’s more, the satellites would presumably be able to blanket the entire globe with coverage – something that a single large satellite simply wouldn’t be able to accomplish. Musk also has his own rockets to deploy the satellites.

The only serious competitor that we’re aware of at this time is Richard Branson’s Virgin which partnered with former Google staffer Greg Wyler and his company OneWeb (which is also backed by Qualcomm) earlier this year.