Saturday, 23 January 2021

Starlink broadband coming to the UK

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 11 January 21

The satellite broadband system received the green light from Ofcom back in November, according to reports

Space X’s Starlink broadband project could soon be available in the UK, following the approval of the company’s user terminals by Ofcom back in November, according to sources.    Starlink has been launching internet-beaming satellites into space for over a year now, with the constellation currently numbering around 1,000 devices. The concept is to use these satellites to help deliver internet to underserved regions…

Space X’s Starlink broadband project could soon be available in the UK, following the approval of the company’s user terminals by Ofcom back in November, according to sources. 
 
Starlink has been launching internet-beaming satellites into space for over a year now, with the constellation currently numbering around 1,000 devices. The concept is to use these satellites to help deliver internet to underserved regions, particularly rural areas with difficult geography that traditional operators are loath to cover.
 
As a result, this satellite connectivity in the UK will put Starlink in direct competition not only with OneWeb, the satellite company lifted from bankruptcy in November last year by a £1 billion investment from the UK government and Bharti Enterprises, but also with the existing ISPs, like BT and Vodafone. Elon Musk has said previously that the operators have nothing to fear from the Starlink project, since it will focus almost entirely on areas that are unprofitable for the operators to cover.
 
While satellite connectivity may be very appealing when it comes to rural internet coverage, it is not without its flaws. Penetration and latency, for example, have been major problems for satellite connectivity in the past and are still not entirely solved.
 
Furthermore, the nature of the technology presents some unique space-based problems. Orbiting space debris, for example, has been a growing problem for many years now and the launch of such a massive constellation is only going to exacerbate the issue. It is expected that after many years at least a small percentage of these Starlink satellites will become unresponsive and their orbits will slowly atrophy until they burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. However, such a descent could theoretically take years, during which time they are will become a hazard for other satellites, including the International Space Station. 
 
There are also fears that such a large number of satellites will greatly interfere with astronomical observation projects. In May, Starlink’s satellites came under fire for being overly bright in the night sky, especially when viewed through a telescope. The company has recently upgraded the latest batch of satellites, adding visors that deploy after launch and reduce brightness by around 69%, but the issue is far from solved.
 
For now, however, it appears that Starlink’s initial target is to simply swell the number of satellites in its constellation, with ultimate goals of reaching around 12,000 devices by the mid 2020s. Global coverage is expected to require a much smaller fraction of this total, however, with the company hoping to hit this milestone later this year.
 
 
How will the introduction of Starlink broadband threaten the existing broadband players in the UK? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Britain
 
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