SpaceX has obtained a license to make its planned satellite Internet service available in Australia. The service will be available through its Starlink satellite constellation once it is fully operational.
Paperwork related to the license indicates that SpaceX previously planned to operate its Internet service using a subsidiary company named TIBRO. It later changed the name of the subsidiary to Starlink Australia PTY LTD.
Starlink is currently in its private beta phase with more than 700 satellites in orbit. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has indicated that it will open a public beta in the northern United States and possibly southern Canada “very soon.”
Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US & hopefully southern Canada. Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 6, 2020
Leaked reports indicate that early beta testers have gotten download speeds of up to 60 Mbps. Statements from SpaceX engineers indicate that the launch of more satellites since then has helped to boost the speed to as high as 100 Mbps. Once fully launched, SpaceX has indicated that the satellite constellation will be able to deliver speeds up to 1 Gbps.
“They show super-low latency and download speeds greater than 100 [megabits] per second. That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once,” said SpaceX engineer Kate Tice.
Starlink is already successfully providing Internet service to emergency personnel in Washington State and the Native American Hoh Tribe. SpaceX may be using this to demonstrate the capacity of Starlink to provide Internet access in conditions where utilities and “traditional” ground-based Internet are unreliable or existing Internet service providers neglected to invest in impoverished or sparsely populated areas.
Similarly neglected regions in Australia can benefit from SpaceX’s plan to offer high-speed satellite Internet service. According to 2017 statistics, Australia’s average population density is a surprisingly low 3.1 people per square kilometer, with wide swaths of land at less than 0.1 people per square kilometer once one moves away from coastal areas. It would be no surprise if people living in those areas have trouble getting Internet access due to service providers not bothering to make the investment.
Observers have praised the speed at which Australia approved Starlink’s license and also expressed frustration at the slowness of the regulatory agencies of other countries such as Canada, which has not yet made a decision on SpaceX’s Starlink application. A Disqus user known as Schmoe had this to say:
“The Canadians’ CRTC authority, on the other hand, has been dragging their feet and still hasn’t granted Starlink a license, despite the fact that Southern Canada right now has the best Starlink coverage due to the satellites’ 53-degree inclination orbits!”
Musk has also indicated that bringing the public beta to Canada is pending regulatory approval. Now that Australia has given Starlink its stamp of approval, however, future launches may put satellites into an orbit that can more effectively cover Australia’s Outback regions.