News, Technology

Project Starlink—Two Years On

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

The saga of space internet began as SpaceX launched its first Starlink satellites in 2019. Almost 2 years on, here’s the state of satellite internet.

For the price of $99 a month (and a $500 beta kit), Elon Musk’s aerospace company will become your new internet service provider—delivering your internet from space. 

During SpaceX’s expanded beta called the “Better Than Nothing” phase, the aerospace giant provided select users with stable broadband internet connections, with data speeds varying from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s with a latency ranging from anywhere between 20-40 milliseconds. 

On Monday the SpaceX CEO confirmed via a tweet that the data speeds will double to “300Mb/s & latency will drop to ~20ms” by the end of the year. Another tweet by Musk revealed SpaceX’s plans to expand coverage to ‘all of the Earth’ come 2022. 

If you live anywhere near a metropolitan centre, chances are those data speeds will fall slightly short of your Brobdingnagian expectations for broadband internet in the modern age—but for the rest of the world, Starlink is the era-defining development in the telecommunications industry—just as advertised. Here’s why.

The Space, The Telecom Race and Starlink’s Case

(Image: SpaceX on Unsplash)

In ‘Project Starlink: Universal Internet Delivered from Space’ I deliberated upon SpaceX’s ambitious project to envelop the low-earth orbit with miniature satellites to deliver the internet—transcending geographical, territorial and plausibly geopolitical impediments—touching briefly upon the implications of a ‘universal’ access to the internet. 

Metropolitan centres usually have no dearth of service options to choose from—however, the situation changes dramatically as one moves away from the metros. 

A 2017 feature on Ars Technica unveiled staggering figures revealing the situation of internet services in the suburbs of America. According to an evaluation of data available to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 10.6 million US households had no access to wired internet connections offering speeds greater than 25Mbps—with an additional 4.9 million homes that can’t move past the 3Mbps marker—despite paying exorbitant rates to ISPs. 

Over the suburbs of the world, Starlink has a space to shine. Given time, SpaceX’s satellite-based internet will come to aid those who live in remote, secluded areas of the world with complex terrains and challenging environments—places beyond the reach of the fibre. 

In this race to space, however, SpaceX isn’t the lone contender. E-commerce giant Amazon’s Project Kuiper and UK-based satellite company OneWeb (which recently secured a hefty investment from SoftBank and Hughes Communications) are both eyeing the low-earth orbit for the deployment of miniature satellites. 

The future of the internet is in space, and it has already lifted off. 

Or has it?

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