Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LONDON – SpaceX’s satellite broadband service Starlink is now being tested in the UK after being licensed by the British telecom regulator Ofcom.
Starlink received an “Earth station network license”
A £ 200 ($ 272) per year license allows Starlink to sell satellite dishes and other communications equipment in the UK, allowing people to pick up signals transmitted by Starlink’s network of satellites.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk and is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company. It announced that it set up the Starlink sub-division in 2015.
Musk, who is now the world’s richest person, has said he wants to improve Internet access in parts of the world that are not currently served by broadband providers. He plans to do this by placing thousands of small telecommunications satellites in a low-ground orbit that can beam high-speed, low-latency Internet to the ground.
In an interview last March, Musk said SpaceX could earn up to $ 30 billion a year by providing broadband. He said Starlink would be “useful for telecommunications companies because Starlink will serve the hardest to serve customers”, adding that 5G is not great for the landscape because “you need reach.”
Starlink, which will compete with the UK’s OneWeb, aims to have 1,440 of its 260 kg (570 lb) satellites in orbit by the end of 2021.
The company, which is primarily focused on connecting rural areas where the Internet is unreliable or unavailable, has been urging people in the US and Canada to try its service since October.
It now invites people in the UK via email according to reports and users of social media. Starlink charges UK customers £ 439 for satellite dish and other communications equipment as well as a £ 89 monthly fee and a £ 54 shipping fee.
Those testing the service can reportedly expect data speeds of between 50 megabits per second. Second (Mbps) and 150 Mbps. The average broadband speed in the UK is 64 Mbps, but those in rural areas often struggle to get anywhere near it. It is unclear how many homes and offices currently use Starlink’s service.
SpaceX set up a UK unit in London called Starlink Internet Services in August last year, according to a document filed with the UK Companies Register.
A picture of what appears to be one of the first Starlink deliveries in the UK was shared on Reddit by Philip Hall, who lives in Devon in the south west of England.
“As a short-term broadband enthusiast, I signed up for the beta quite early,” Hall told CNBC via Reddit on Thursday.
Hall, who once deployed air defense networks for the British military, said: “The technology function of this at the consumer level is astounding.”
In terms of performance, Hall said he can consistently get 80 Mbps download speeds at home.
He assumes he got a Starlink bowl because the company wants data prior to a commercial rollout, and he’s at the right latitude.
As a description of the setup, Hall said it’s like many other appliances. He installed an app on his Android phone, checked to make sure the bowl had a clear view of the sky (something that was easy in Devon in the countryside) and plugged it in. “The app asks you to register a name and a password and you are cooking,” he said.
Greece, Germany and Australia have also reportedly approved Starlink’s offer.