Starlink From SpaceX Has The Potential To Bridge The Digital Divide

Starlink is on the brink of providing an upgrade to how the internet is accessed in today’s digital economy. With a ground-breaking satellite mesh network system, Starlink has the potential to provide internet to even the most remote parts of the world.

A project spearheaded by world-renowned tech billionaire and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Starlink is a breakthrough in internet service access. In addition, Starlink will connect the world by bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Starlink is a giant leap forward in achieving internet coverage in underserved areas. There have been companies that have tried and failed due to low speeds caused by high latency. Starlink has promised to deliver internet connectivity with extremely low latencies.

Low latency means users will experience very few interruptions when, for example, streaming movies. Elon Musk said at the 2020 Satellite Conference in Washington, DC that “We’re targeting latency below 20 milliseconds, so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level like that’s the threshold for the latency.”

Currently, Starlink have managed to launch 1,200 satellites into orbit. At full capacity, Starlink says that a total of 12,000 satellites will be orbiting the earth. The company will continue to launch satellites in a phased approach to have about 8,000 satellites orbiting just 500km above the planet and the remaining 4,000 circling much higher up, at around 1,200km. They aim to have all systems in place and ready to go by the end of this year.

The speed at which the Starlink system will provide internet connectivity to underserved users’ will open a new world of opportunity no matter their geographic location. This speed will go a long way in bridging the digital divide, closing the gap between the have’s and have not’s. The Starlink setup is a two-step approach in any order. Musk says, “It’s very important that you don’t need a specialist to install it. The goal is that… there’s just two instructions and they can be done in either order: point at sky, plug in”.

Rural or urban, first-world or not, Starlink will not discriminate in its service delivery. Whether situated in Los Angeles or a small farming town in the Kalahari, internet speed will be the same once at its full potential. “Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge. “Unhabited by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable”, (posted from the Starlink website).

Another benefit is that there is no need to lay cables in the hard-to-reach areas, which would be costly and time-consuming. At the press of a button, a user can activate Starlink. Starlink will allow schools and businesses in rural areas to access internet speeds on par with schools and businesses in urban areas. This connectivity is progress to bridging the digital divide. The cost is the only current setback not yet conducive to low-income neighbourhoods. However, hopefully, this will become a thing of the past.

The Starlink project does not mean that fibre internet will become obsolete. On the contrary, Musk reassures telco companies by saying, “I want to be clear, it’s not like Starlink is some huge threat to telcos. I want to be super clear that it is not. In fact, it will be helpful to telcos because Starlink will serve the hardest-to-serve customers that telcos otherwise have trouble doing with landlines or even with cell towers.”

Starlink has launched enough satellites to make up 25% to 35% of all satellites in space. With 11 000 more satellites to go, Starlink will undoubtedly be crowned ‘Space King’. With no signs of slowing down, we could witness history in the making within our lifetime.

  • Simon Swanepoel is the CEO of RocketNet

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