Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Patrick T. Fallon Bloomberg | Getty images
LONDON – SpaceX Starlink’s satellite broadband service is now being tested in the UK after receiving a license from the British telecommunications regulator Ofcom.
Starlink was issued with a “license for earth station networks”
The £ 200 ($ 272) license per year allows Starlink to sell satellite dishes and other communications equipment in the UK so that people can pick up signals from Starlink’s satellite network.
Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, SpaceX is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company. He announced that he was setting up a Starlink division in 2015.
Musk, now the world’s richest man, said he wanted to improve Internet access in parts of the world that are not currently served by broadband providers. He plans to do so by launching thousands of small telecommunications satellites into low-Earth orbit that can carry low-latency high-speed Internet to Earth.
In an interview last March, Musk said SpaceX could make up to $ 30 billion a year by providing broadband. He said Starlink would be “useful for telecommunications because Starlink will have the hardest time serving customers”, adding that 5G is not great for the province because “you need coverage”.
Starlink, which will compete with OneWeb in the UK, aims to have 1,440 of its 260 kilograms of satellites in orbit by the end of 2021.
The company, which focuses primarily on connecting rural areas where the Internet is unreliable or inaccessible, is inviting people in the United States and Canada to try out its service from October.
She currently invites people to the UK by email, according to reports and social media users. Starlink charges British customers £ 439 for a satellite dish and other communication equipment, as well as a £ 89 monthly fee and a £ 54 delivery fee.
Those testing the service can expect data speeds between 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and 150 Mbps, according to reports. The average broadband speed in the UK is 64 Mbps, but those in rural areas often struggle to get close. It is not clear how many homes and offices currently use the Starlink service.
SpaceX created a British entity in London called Starlink Internet Services last August, according to a document filed in the UK Business Register.
A photo of what appears to be one of Starlink’s first deliveries in the UK was shared on Reddit by Philip Hall, who lives in the province of Devon, south-west England.
“As an enthusiast who has no prospects for fiber (broadband) in the near future, I joined the beta version quite early,” Hall told CNBC via Reddit on Thursday.
Hall, who once deployed air defense networks for the British military, said: “The technical capabilities at this consumer level are amazing.”
In terms of performance, Hall said it can consistently achieve a download speed of 80 Mbps at home.
He suspects he got the Starlink dish because the company wants data before it goes on the market and it’s at the right latitude.
Describing the setup, Hall said it was just like many other appliances. He installed an app on his Android phone, checked to see if the dish had a clear view of the sky (something that was easy in rural Devon), and turned it on. “The app asks you to register a username and password and you’re cooking,” he said.
Greece, Germany and Australia have also approved Starlink’s proposal.