Starlink: A game-changer in providing high-speed internet to remote areas
Starlink, a satellite internet proposal announced in January 2015, is the name of a satellite network that SpaceX is developing to provide low-cost internet to remote locations. The company’s ultimate goal is to have as many as 42,000 satellites in this so-called mega constellation.
The service is in the process of expanding preorders to even more potential users, with people currently living without access to high-speed internet as one of the top priorities.
CEO Elon Musk’s initial estimate of the number of satellites soon grew, as he hoped to capture a part of the estimated $1 trillion worldwide internet connectivity market to help achieve his Mars “colonization vision”. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted SpaceX permission to fly 12,000 Starlink satellites, and the company has filed paperwork with an international regulator to lift up to 30,000 additional spacecraft.
The first 60 Starlink satellites were launched on May 23, 2019, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellites successfully reached their operational altitude of 340 miles (550 kilometres) — low enough to get pulled down to Earth by atmospheric drag in a few years not to become space junk once they die.
Rather than sending internet signals through electric cables, which must be physically laid down to reach far-flung places, satellite internet works by beaming information through the vacuum of space, where it travels 47% faster than in fibre-optic cable Insider reported.
Current satellite internet works using large spacecraft that orbit 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above a particular spot on the Earth. Starlink’s satellites are meant to carry large amounts of information rapidly to any point on Earth, even over the oceans and in highly hard-to-reach places where fibre-optic cables would be expensive to lay down.
Users on the ground access the broadband signals using a kit sold by SpaceX. According to the company’s website, the kit contains a small satellite dish with a mounting tripod, a wifi router, cables, and a power supply.
There is no doubt that Starlink is a game-changer in providing low-cost, high-speed internet to remote areas that could be used all over the world provided the prices are not prohibitive.