A far-reaching disruption in connectivity is coming
Starlink! The name most likely stirs all kinds of Star Wars-y sentiments in your subconscious. But come back down to earth because this is not a sci-fi piece. Well, kind of. Starlink is namely the satellite-internet brainchild of Tesla Motors and SpaceX juggernaut Elon Musk. It is a subdivision of the latter and comprises a network of low-orbiting satellites he aims to launch into the world’s orbit to provide high-speed internet to all regions of the world — especially rural areas that have been historically underserved.
To achieve this historic feat, the earth’s atmosphere would need to be dotted with 10,000 of these Starlink satellites and Starlink has even indicated they may eventually want as many as 30,000 of them in orbit. How are they faring on this aspiration thus far? Nearly 1,300 satellites are now peppering our night sky, serving over 10,000 customers, mostly in the northwestern US, neighboring regions in Canada, and parts of the UK.
This may seem extremely limited to the untrained eye — roughly 10% of the desired amount and providing internet to regions that have plenty of access to the internet already — but it is actually an impressive achievement considering the context. The first prototypes were namely launched as recently as 2018.
And Musk has gone on record stating he expects the Starlink network to already reach global availability by 2022. So we might be seeing many satellite launches in the coming year. You can see one of them here:
The issues are being addressed
If you have your misgivings about having thousands of visible satellites scattered across our night sky, you’re not alone. Many have already raised their concerns about the adverse effect this may have on stargazing and the protection of nocturnal wildlife.
Among them is the International Astronomical Union, which even released a statement warning of the effects. It did not fall on deaf ears. It prompted Starlink to start testing different designs of their satellites with reduced brightness and visibility. Many of these adjusted satellites have already been launched.
The immense value of Starlink
If you’re asking yourself: Why is there even such a thing as Starlink? Why not just use fiber to get a remote village in Nepal connected, for example? The answer is in the work to set up that endeavor. While fiber — that is, internet delivered via ground-laid fiber-optic cables — does offer faster internet speeds than satellite internet, setting up the infrastructure to get the fiber to people’s homes is a very slow process riddled with bureaucracy. It is literally easier to shoot a satellite into space. However, it must also be said that bad weather conditions can interfere with connectivity.
This notwithstanding, Starlink will likely change the arena of internet distribution forever. This will be a major disruptor for internet service providers, their current industry, and their business models — imagine being able to tap ‘WiFi’ anywhere in the world and be connected via a subscription model straight from the sky. On-demand. Just like we are used to streaming movies from Netflix, and accessing music via Spotify/Apple Music. People will now be able to subscribe to on-demand internet and literally tap it from the air.
Start ordering now!
Starlink is already accepting pre-order subscriptions for USD $99 with a one-time fee of USD $499 for the mountable satellite dish and router that you will need to install at home. You will also get a Starlink Kit with everything you need to get online including your Starlink, Wi-Fi router, power supply, cables, and mounting tripod.
Starlink will provide areas of the world heretofore disconnected from technology with the higher speeds seen in major cities of industrialized countries. That is most certainly a bright note for our planet’s future. And with upgrades beginning this year, we should expect this dream to become a reality in the very soon. You can already sign up for the service to be among the first to get access once it becomes available in the applicable areas. You can do so right here. And here you get a guide on how to install it and get online.