With a plan to globalize internet connectivity, Elon Musk has given us a glimpse of how our future connectivity might be like. Beta testers of the Starlink services have reported to get download speed ranging from 50-150 Mbps and latency averaging 39ms. An upfront cost of installment is estimated to be around $499 for the antenna and a router, with a monthly price of $99.
Starlink internet uses thousands of small satellites weighing 260 kg in low earth orbit (LEO) which send the signal back to ground transceivers. With 800 satellites currently in orbit, the goal is to deploy 42,000 satellites about 440 kilometers high from the earth surface.
These satellites are carried onto the orbit by SpaceX with Falcon 9 rockets. There will be inter-connectivity between the satellites by using lasers. Light moves 47% faster in vacuum than through a solid fiber-optic glass, which means the inter-connectivity between them will take place at speeds higher than an optical fiber cable would provide currently.
We won’t have our devices directly connecting to these satellites though. Early prototypes have been seen where a ground terminal is used. It’s similar to a satellite dish that we currently have to get TV connections. The size will be similar as well. Since the ground terminal is all we need to gain an internet connection, Starlink has a potential to revolutionize internet connectivity.
Currently, getting a decent internet connection at rural areas is hard due to the large upfront cost of setting up the infrastructure. Optical fiber cables are laid on the ground to form a ground-based connection which takes up the bulk of the investment. With it comes maintenance, in case the cables break. Spacex Starlink will avoid this completely as the satellite will be on the orbit. All we need is a ground terminal that has a power source and a clear view of the sky.
This Elon Musk internet won’t surely be available at every corner of the world during its initial stage. But with the number of satellites on the orbit increasing at a rapid pace, the scenario will be better more likely than not. We might then see a new connectivity revolution that the tycoon has envisioned. As is the case with many of his other projects like the brain-connecting Neuralink or the gravity defying Hyperloop.