Starlink has expanded to all regions of the United Kingdom. The SpaceX owned company’s satellite Internet service is still in beta and was previously available in only the southern England part of the UK. Today, the company announced an expansion to cover parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and northern England. Starlink says users should currently expect data speeds to vary between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s over the next several months, with brief periods of no connectivity whatsoever.
Starlink is now available in parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, in addition to existing service areas in southern England.
During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.
As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.
To check availability for your location, visit starlink.com and re-enter your service address. If Starlink is not yet available in your area, you can place a deposit to hold your space in line for future service.
The UK’s average download speed across all broadband providers is around 67.23Mb/s, but climbing as the rollout of full-fiber starts picking up pace again following a pandemic-induced slowdown.
Starlink wants to quickly deliver decent broadband connectivity to rural locations which have been left underserved due to the difficulties and cost of laying traditional fiber.
“This will transform rural WiFi,” says Compare Fibre’s co-founder Nathan Hill-Haimes. “We are really keen to stress the impact this can have on connecting rural locations with high-speed internet.”
A Starlink user from Devon told the Press Association: “If you need connectivity to run a business and if you need connectivity for communication, particularly in Covid times, £90 a month is quite justifiable.”
Starlink was issued a UK “Earth station network license” in November, an Ofcom spokesperson told CNBC. The £200 ($272) a year license allows Starlink to sell satellite dishes and other communications equipment in the U.K. so that people can pick up signals emitted by Starlink’s network of satellites.
Separately, SpaceX wants to begin connecting large vehicles – from trucks to jets to ships – to its Starlink satellite Internet network, according to a request the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“This application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide,” SpaceX director of satellite policy David Goldman wrote in a letter to the FCC filed on Friday.
Starlink is the company’s capital-intensive project to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, known in the space industry as a constellation, designed to deliver high-speed internet to consumers anywhere on the planet.
To date SpaceX has launched more than 1,100 satellites for Starlink. In October, SpaceX began rolling out early service in a public beta to customers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., with service priced at $99 a month. Additionally, in a late January update, SpaceX told the FCC that its Starlink beta now has more than 10,000 users.
The Starlink service also includes a $499 upfront cost for the hardware needed to connect to the network. Known as the Starlink Kit, it includes a user terminal (the small, dish-like antenna) and a Wi-Fi router.
SpaceX did not indicate in its filing Friday whether the Starlink user terminals for moving vehicles will have a different design than the dishes currently being shipped to early customers. But SpaceX said each “ESIM,” or Earth Station In Motion, is “electrically identical to its previously authorized consumer user terminals,” with added “mountings that allow them to be installed on vehicles, vessels and aircraft.”
The company also noted that it “will ensure installation” of the vehicle terminals through “qualified installers.” While SpaceX did not say whether those installers would be company employees, it continues to expand Starlink manufacturing and operations – including plans for a new equipment factory in Austin, Texas.
Over 1,000 Starlink satellites are currently in orbit of the total 12,000 satellites which have been authorized. Filings have been submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requesting permission to launch 30,000 additional Starlink satellites.
Starlink is, by far, the biggest satellite broadband deployment. However, rivals such as Amazon’s “Project Kuiper” will be looking to challenge the titleholder in the coming years.
Project Kuiper was given the green light by the FCC last year to launch 3,236 of its own satellites.
“We are doing an incredible amount of invention to deliver fast, reliable broadband at a price that makes sense for customers,” Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, said at the time.
SpaceX is currently launching around 60 satellites at a time and aims to have deployed 1,440 by late 2021 to provide near-global service.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the company wrote in a release announcing Starlink’s expansion in the UK.
Starlink and Kuiper will also be competing against promising satellite broadband firm OneWeb.
OneWeb nearly collapsed after crucial funding was pulled last-minute during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the company was rescued following a $1bn (£800m) investment from the UK government and Bharti Global Ltd of India.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances.”
Since the UK and Bharti’s investment, OneWeb has continued to receive large investments. In January, the company announced that it has raised $1.4 billion in total funding after securing investments from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems.
Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank, commented: “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialization. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK government, and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”
OneWeb is the smallest of the three satellite broadband firms but has launched 74 of its innovative ultrafast broadband satellites to date and plans to launch a total of 648 by the end of 2021.
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said: “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November.”