Starlink: Why is Elon Musk launching thousands of satellites?

01 August 2022
 Starlink: Why is Elon Musk launching thousands of satellites?

Elon Musk's SpaceX company has been launching thousands of satellites into orbit. Many people say they've seen them in the skies.

They're part of the Starlink project, which aims to provide high speed internet services from space, to remote areas on Earth.

Starlink provides internet services via a huge network of satellites.

It is aimed at people who live in remote areas who cannot get high-speed internet.

"There are people in the UK in that category, but more across the world, in places like Africa," says Dr Lucinda King, Space Projects Manager at the University of Portsmouth.

Starlink's satellites have been put in low-level orbit around the Earth to make connection speeds between the satellites and the ground as fast as possible.

However, a great many low-level satellites are needed to provide full coverage of the globe.

It's thought Starlink has put some 3,000 of them into space since 2018. It may eventually use 10,000 or 12,000, says Chris Hall, editorial director of the technology website Pocket Lint.

"Using satellites solves the problem of getting internet connections to remote locations in deserts and mountains," he says.

"It bypasses the need to build massive amounts of infrastructure, like cables and masts, to reach those areas."

Compared to standard internet providers, Starlink isn't cheap.

It charges customers $99 per month (£89 per month in the UK). The dish and router needed to connect to the satellites costs $549 (£529 in the UK).

 However, 96% of households in the UK already have access to high-speed internet, as do 90% of households in the EU and the US.

"Most of the developed world is already well connected," says Professor Sa'id Mosteshar of London University's Institute of Space Policy and Law. "They're relying on a small share of the market for revenues."

The company says it has 400,000 subscribers in the 36 countries it currently covers - mostly in North America, Europe and Australasia. This is made up of both households and businesses.

Next year, Starlink plans to extend its coverage further across Africa and South America, and into Asia - regions of the world where internet coverage is more patchy.

"Starlink's prices may be too high for many households in Africa, say," says Chris Hall. "But it could play an important role in connecting schools and hospitals in remote areas there."

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