Back in 2018, 63% of all smartphone users were using online banking. The CEO of Atembis said, “I think just about everything at a hospital is dependent on the internet at this point.” According to the Department of Defense Annual Energy Management and Resilience Report (AEMRR) for the Fiscal Year 2017, disruption in inter cost the US military a bill of $27,615,061. According to (CIPESA) report, a $235 million deficit resulted from 2015 to 2017 because the internet was shut down in 10 countries. You can understand where this is going. Our lives can not be normal without the internet. And yet, issues with internet connection is still a very common and relevant thing to deal with.
With the need of a better and reliable network system, Starlink was proposed by Elon Musk nearly six years ago. There had already been satellite internet networks. But, he was first to reimagine how there can be such dedicated and sizable satellites that would compensate for the existing crisis; things like latency, internet speed and coverage. His ingenious idea was to make smaller satellites and send enough of them cycling the Earth on the low-most orbital pathway. It was obvious, he plans to start big and be swift. Since the announcement, Starlink is now at a height and has accomplished a lot.
The visionary idea behind satellite-based internet – “Starlink” was publicly announced in January of 2015 by SpaceX. Elon Musk was critical about the deficit in the current performance and availability of internet services. Even today, approximately 10% of the world’s people live beyond the reach of a mobile network, according to the GSMA. He emphasized the loss due to that. Then, he proposed to meet that demand through his new satellite constellation network system. If SpaceX can pull it off, we can all enjoy higher bandwidth in backhaul communications that will increase any local internet traffic even in the high-density cities.
What is Starlink and How Does It Work
The idea behind Starlink is to deploy enough satellites into Earth’s lower orbit to establish a reliable broadband internet system that will cover people everywhere across the world. It is fascinating indeed. A number of satellites will establish geometric patterns, resembling constellations, to optimize ground coverage. Each Starlink satellite is going to remain active in small groups of clusters connected by laser lights with other satellites in the vicinity. According to Isaac Newton, the second law of motion is that the force on an object is equal to its mass times its acceleration. Thus, the trick is that they are launching satellites weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kilograms). These satellites are allowed to heighten up to low most orbits and stay there which is possible for their size and weight. It is all possible due to the low most orbital positioning. While in orbit, these satellites will transmit signals to ground transceivers stationed at your homes through which you will have the internet connection. Any disruption in the process will cause connection failure.
On the bright side, you will no longer need to hustle the local providers and make way for the wires. Besides, the data will be slung at nearly 300 Mb/sec. as per Elon Musk promised. And, rest assured, these satellites possibly can abridge users across nations and seas.
Environmentally, the idea had some attention from scientific communities. Some are deeming it to be a disaster for the starry night. Eventually, more competitors will start launching their satellites and soon enough, they can end up remodeling the sky.
Where is Starlink Today?
SpaceX had a number of satellites which they were allowed to deploy. The number of satellites they have deployed is as high as 1,265 Starlink Satellites orbiting the Earth right now ever since the latest launch of 60 new satellites in the Falcon 9 rocket on March 12th, 2021. Since the wars and rocket science, about 9000 satellites have been launched into outer space. That is 9000 making all the satellites ever launched from this planet. It wasn’t long before SpaceX’s limit bar was notched up on 15th October 2019 allowing up to 30,000 additional Starlink satellites to supplement the 12,000 Starlink satellites already approved by the FCC. Such a big number is going to cause changes of equal magnitude which perhaps isn’t enough to be approved by a local authority. The ITU, which is a United Nations entity, can be a potential obstacle for Startlink, because it is to govern and coordinate spectrum at the international level for satellite operators to avoid signal interference and spectrum hogging. At the next Radiocommunication Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the regulators from ITU intend to strengthen rules and laws governing mega constellation ventures.
TinTin-A and TinTin-B were the first two Starlink test craft that launched in 2018. This would be the test run that green-lit the operations. Consequently, on May 23, 2019, first of the 60 satellites went aboard the Falcon 9 Rocket by SpaceX and successfully reached the predetermined altitude at 340 miles (550 kilometers) from Earth; at such a minimal distance that when the satellites go out of commission, they will eventually fall back on the surface instead of becoming lost in the outer space like most of the space junk. Recently, it has come to light that they have integrated a krypton ion propulsion system in their satellites with which, now they can maneuver the satellites to avoid collision with space debris. They will also have Star Tracker, Space X’s inbuilt sensors, that will work with data from the U.S. Department of Defense debris tracking system for minimal human error.
A troop of satellites launched in November 2019 and in January 2020. The plan was to start offering broadband internet service by the year-end of 2020. Starlink has over a thousand orbiting satellites that are visible from Leiden, Netherlands. SpaceX is dead set on raising the satellite count up to 4,425 by 2024. As of now, Starlink is doing business privately on experimental phases. It is known that Elon Musk is trying to make Starlink an independent business from SpaceX so that they can go public sooner.
As of today, Starlink has some minor competitors to swallow, nothing to break a sweat. Bell Satellite TV, a Canadian satellite TV provider came to an agreement to lease a satellite for lifetime to Telesat, the Canadian telecom satellite operator on December 13th, 2009. Nimiq 6, Telesat’s satellite, was publicly reported in 2009 and launched in 2012. They announced a constellation cluster of themselves in 2016 with an initial plan of 120 satellites. Their allowance went up to 300 satellites the next year and by 2020, the plan was to raise the bar up to 1600 satellites. OneWeb, another primary competitor of Starlink, is now more like a sinking ship since they were hit hard by the pandemic. Amazon’s plan to compete with Starlink is the “Project Kuiper”, which is backed by a budget of $10 billion and aims to deploy 3,236 satellites. The day isn’t far when you will no longer trip on wires or be exasperated by routers and providers if Starlink can maintain its pace.
Challenges for Starlink
Technocrats had always had a fetish for a holistic inter-network system that would arch the world. The way Starlink delved into the business has surely stirred up some contention and criticism. Some find the idea dubious and farfetched. Some might even deem it a hazard to health. But, there is no doubt that there is more to gain from it. Thus, momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
This reason was potentially criticized by many renowned astronomers from various parts of the world. They are concerned that their bright glimmering satellite constellations will disrupt and seriously hinder the works of observatories and astronomers as a result. Too many satellites orbiting Earth from the closest orbit can result in another disaster; they might end up outnumbering the visible stars in the night sky. As a result, Observatories across the planet shared their concerns on how these satellites can intrude an area under observation even for limited time and plunder the scientific processes. There is news that something is being done about the satellites being too bright as they are trying to apply a layer with an experimental coating which will hopefully minimize the disturbance.
It is known that these satellites not only shine like shooting stars but they can potentially jumble radio frequencies. Astronomers depend heavily on radio communication. This can potentially cause considerable problems in dedicated radio frequency channels.
Starlink’s Beta Testing Phase
The service began the beta testing phase in October 2020 and is doing well so far but not perfected. Starlink needs a lot more satellites to accomplish the intended vision of establishing a network system across the planet. But, for now they also have enough technology in motion to troubleshoot their mechanism. The network connection service that is already available has superseded expected results. The performance advertised by the company varies from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s with latency from 20ms to 40ms.
Elon Musk himself had publicly claimed that they have “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad.” You can get Starlink services at $499 plus tax for a small satellite dish with installation gear and a Wi-Fi router. Their service costs $99 per month. And, by overseas he meant Canada and the UK outside of the US. Besides, they only provide services in the Northern parts of the US.
Weather will not be an issue apparently as they claim that the internet connection will remain equally fast even in high-speed winds, deep snow, and freezing temperatures. Engineers at Starlink stated that the ground transceivers that malfunctioned earlier due to snowing, now have “self-heating capabilities to deal with weather conditions” in a Q&A session with Reddit’s Starlink community on 21st November.
Starlink is a promising new idea; a whole new level in the internet networking system, a paradigm shift for internet availability issues across the world. Now, almost every day, there is a new hiatus for life that is digital. Most forms of human enterprise are transcending into the world of the internet. Demand for a better internet infrastructure system is going to grow for time to come. Starlink might not be far away. The company has not even started business publicly yet. But, as much as they have done at Starlink, it can easily be asserted that Starlink is expected to be the leader in the ISP business.