SpaceX’s satellite broadband service Starlink has expanded to all regions of the United Kingdom.
The service, currently still in beta, was previously only available in southern England. Today, the company has announced an expansion to cover parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and northern England.
Starlink says users should currently expect data speeds to vary between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s over the next several months, with brief periods of no connectivity whatsoever.
The UK’s average download speed across all broadband providers is around 67.23Mb/s but climbing as the rollout of full-fibre starts picking up pace again following a pandemic-induced slowdown.
Of course, Starlink isn’t targeting typical home broadband use—which the £439 hardware cost and £89/month service fee reflects. Instead, the company aims to help quickly deliver decent connectivity to rural locations which have been left underserved due to the difficulties and cost of laying traditional fibre.
“This will transform rural WiFi,” says Compare Fibre’s co-founder Nathan Hill-Haimes. “We are really keen to stress the impact this can have on connecting rural locations with high-speed internet.”
A Starlink user from Devon told the Press Association: “If you need connectivity to run a business and if you need connectivity for communication, particularly in Covid times, £90 a month is quite justifiable.”
Over 1,000 Starlink satellites are currently in orbit of 12,000 that have been authorised. Filings have been submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requesting permission to launch 30,000 additional Starlink satellites.
Starlink is, by far, the biggest satellite broadband deployment. However, rivals such as Amazon’s “Project Kuiper” will be looking to challenge the titleholder in the coming years.
Project Kuiper was given the green light by the FCC last year to launch 3,236 of its own satellites.
“We are doing an incredible amount of invention to deliver fast, reliable broadband at a price that makes sense for customers,” Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, said at the time.
SpaceX is currently launching around 60 satellites at a time and aims to have deployed 1,440 by late 2021 to provide near-global service.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the company wrote in a release announcing Starlink’s expansion in the UK.
Starlink and Kuiper will also be competing against promising satellite broadband firm OneWeb.
OneWeb nearly collapsed after crucial funding was pulled last-minute during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the company was rescued following a $1bn (£800m) investment from the UK government and Bharti Global Ltd of India.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances.”
Since the UK and Bharti’s investment, OneWeb has continued to receive large investments. In January, the company announced that it has raised $1.4 billion in total funding after securing investments from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems.
Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank, commented: “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialisation. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK government, and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”
OneWeb is the smallest of the three satellite broadband firms but has launched 74 of its innovative ultrafast broadband satellites to date and plans to launch a total of 648 by the end of 2021.
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said: “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November.”
Starlink is an exciting project by itself, but things are going to get even more interesting with the competition heating up. As you’d expect, Telecoms will keep you updated on all the developments.
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