An Alternative to NBN?

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Elon Musk and SpaceX have been developing a satellite system called Starlink which is intended to rival established and more conventional cable based Internet offerings by countries. It is said that Starlink will completely cover the earth with thousands of satellites in what is called “Low Earth orbit” or LEOs for short.

Mr Musk stated, that “Starting August (2021) we should have global connectivity for everywhere except the poles”. “It is operational, we recently passed 69,420 active users and I think we are on our way to having a few hundred thousand users, possibly over half a million within 12 months”.

Starlink

Currently, Starlink has over 1600 satellites in LEO which is around 500 kilometres above the earth, they then communicate with earth ground stations and small satellite dishes that customers install on their properties which are termed terminals.

Mr Musk stated “there is a need for connectivity in places that don’t have it right now or where connectivity is very limited or very expensive” – think Outback Australia? He went on to say “you can think of Starlink as filling in the gaps between 5G and fibre and really getting to the parts of the world that are hardest to reach”. All of Australia would fit the bill here maybe? Who has fibre connections in Australia? We can only dream of such a miracle.

The satellite approach has been tried before with various companies offering satellite communications but up to now one of the biggest issues was high-latency meaning several seconds delay in transmitting the signal from a ground station to the satellite then from there back to earth. In Australia, there are a couple of companies using satellites for domestic use, one of those being Optus.

Mr Musk however claims that Starlink has low-latency anywhere on earth with a ballpark figure of 20 milliseconds. To get started on their website an address is required and the costs at the moment in early July 2021 are A$139 per month and a one off cost of $709 plus A$100 shipping for the satellite dish. Starlink is subsidising the cost of the dishes by as much as 50% on cost. Development of the dishes is ongoing so the cost could drop and performance may increase.

Rural Coverage

Starlink is working with telcos, presumably in Australia as well as around the World to bring the Internet to that small percentage of very rural customers who want what we have in the cities. By the sounds of things with Starlink taking pre-orders from Australian customers starting last February the Internet may be closer than you think in rural Australia.

The project started in 2015 and test satellites were launched in 2018, with 60 more test units launched in May 2019. Up to 60 satellites are launched at a time aiming to deploy as of 26th May 2021 1,7370 altogether and working towards near-global service by 2022. SpaceX has approval by the International Telecommunications Union for 12,000 Starlink satellites and have applied recently for an additional 30,000 to supplement their coverage.

Pre-Orders In Australia

In June 2021 SpaceX announced that Starlink had almost 100,000 users and over 500,000 Starlink orders by consumers. Starlink is accepting pre-orders here in Australia.

 

This article has been written by David an IT Consultant at Affordable Computer Repairs and Service in Brisbane.

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