Starlink is changing the future of the internet
Over 3.8 billion people, half of the world’s population, do not have access to the internet. Even in a country as developed as the United States, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that 19 million Americans lack access to the internet at sufficient speeds. In an interview with PCmag, an online news platform, Harris Wilson, an American living in Montana said of internet demand, “It’s been really bad lately. Because of [COVID-19], you have two, three, or four kids at home, and they’re using Zoom for eight hours a day. One of my friends spent over $500 a month [due to data excess].”
SpaceX’s Starlink project attempts to remedy the issue. With nearly 800 satellites in orbit, Starlink seeks to provide rural areas with faster internet access at a lower cost. By 2027, Starlink aims to send 12,000 satellites into space.
Most users admire Starlink’s effort to create a more connected world. Wilson says, “For the most part, it’s always been between 140 megabits per second (Mbps) and 170Mbps. I think it will forever change the game. It’s going to take something like Starlink to change how the internet is out here.” Unfortunately, at present, the internet sometimes slows down to 0.7Mbps since there are only 800 satellites in orbit.
With such fast performance, some may wonder if the setup for Starlink is difficult. However, according to Wilson, “The setup was very, very easy. The way the [Starlink] kit comes, it’s kind of designed to just be put out in your yard.”
The main challenge is to make Starlink more affordable. Right now, Starlink costs nearly a hundred dollars every month, and while it is affordable for many Americans, it is remarkably expensive for many people in less developed countries. In many rural countries, a hundred dollars is more than what an average family earns in a month. Furthermore, the kit costs over five hundred dollars, making it even less accessible for poor families. According to Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, “Lowering Starlink terminal cost, which may sound rather pedestrian, is actually our most difficult technical challenge.”
Starlink’s satellites are all mass-produced. Musk says, “We're going to try and do for satellites what we've done for rockets. In order to revolutionize space, we have to address both satellites and rockets. Smaller satellites are crucial to lowering the cost of space-based Internet and communications.” The satellites currently weigh about 500 kilograms.
However, Starlink has its drawbacks. Many are concerned with the space debris potentially generated by the satellites, and are worried that Starlink may start a trend of launching large amounts of satellites into orbit. Space debris poses a considerable risk to other satellites, and may lead to the loss of large amounts of money. Since the first satellite was launched in 1957, more than 9,000 satellites have been launched, and the European Space Agency estimates that over 130 million debris objects remain in orbit. Considering that SpaceX aims to launch over 12,000 satellites, more than every other satellite combined, the space debris created poses a serious risk to every satellite in orbit. Because of this, Starlink has faced many legal challenges since its inception.