Starlink Internet is coming to the Solomon Islands and it may be able to disrupt the Telecommunications sector with its revolutionary satellite infrastructure.
Lately, there has been a lot of interest in Elon Musk’s satellite internet project, better known as Starlink. To those who haven’t known, Starlink provides low latency, fast internet via thousands of satellites that orbit 300 to 500 kilometres above the earth.
In comparison, traditional satellite internet providers have satellites that orbit up to 10,000 kilometres above the earth.
Because of the less distance, the internet signal has to travel, Starlink internet promises latency as low as 20 microseconds. This is comparable to that of fibre internet.
Again, in comparison, traditional satellite internet has latency as low as 500 microseconds, or even a couple of seconds. This is a small difference, but the impact is huge when it comes to latency analysis.
Use cases of fast, low latency internet are vast, but the most common one is ‘almost real-time’ communication. This is vital for stock market traders, gamers, telemedicine, and other teleworking industries that require almost real-time communication.
The Starlink internet infrastructure does make traditional Satellite ISPs truly traditional. Not only is this internet infrastructure revolutionary, but also the business model behind it.
Starlink plans to sell its internet service globally, to places where rural internet is too expensive to reach. They may not be using reseller ISPs but plan to sell directly to the customers.
Their price is cheap. Currently, beta testers on Starlink boast unlimited internet. The average speeds (and latencies) are up to 200 Mbps (and 30 microseconds) for around $800 SBD per month.
In comparison, that is hundredths of times cheaper than the local average internet cost of approximately $700 SBD per Mbps, per month at the time of writing.
Starlink made their satellite dishes simple to install for an ordinary internet user. It is ‘plug and play’. Point the dish to the sky, plug it into power and that’s it, there is an internet connection.
Regulators do have a say
This post from Forbes raised some interesting points on how local ISPs, Regulators, and Governments would be able to deal with Starlink.
At the time of writing, our Regulator, Telecommunications Commission of the Solomon Islands will decide whether Starlink should operate in the Solomon Islands come 2022.
There could be a number of factors to consider. Protecting the profitability interests of current local operators could be one. Allowing citizens to have a cheaper option to afford quality internet is a counter.
I presume that any Government may see Starlink internet as a threat from a ‘regulating’ perspective. With many occurrences of cyber crimes these days, regulating internet access to the local population is just as needed as ever before.
The submarine fibre internet has local gateways where web filtering can happen. Satellite internet could be different if companies providing satellite internet do not work with a local counterpart.
Regardless, the internet has become a vital infrastructure just like roads, railways, shipping lines, and aviation. It supports trade and economies more than ever before. The Starlink internet will definitely leverage this.
Prior to the Coral Sea Cable, the hype was it will be a game-changer. Of course, it is but internet penetration in rural areas is still to happen. Even in Honiara, the quality and reliability of our internet connection depend very much on the network infrastructure of our local ISPs.
Starlink internet aims to jump over all these hurdles and deliver straight to its customers. Would Starlink really be a game-changer? I guess we will just have to find out later.
I hope our Government will allow Starlink internet to sell its service to the local populace. Otherwise, I think we will be stuck with unreliable and expensive internet for the next few years.