SpaceX is currently working on a ground station that will assist with providing nationwide Starlink Internet service coverage for Britain. The station, which will be located on the Isle of Man, will help provide Internet access to remote communities in the northern part of the country.
The process includes a bid to secure a license to build the ground station. SpaceX already has a telecommunications license for the area, which includes permission to use certain bands of the radio spectrum and install equipment to support the station. The station will add to the capacity of existing Starlink-related infrastructure in the counties of Buckinghamshire and Cornwall.
SpaceX is currently working with the UK government on “Project Gigabit,” which aims to improve access to broadband Internet services in sparsely populated areas. It has also signed a deal with British telecom company Arqiva to provide ground stations and infrastructure that can connect its Starlink satellites with the telecom’s fiber network. Project Gigabit aims to improve Internet service for more than one million homes and businesses that have lacked reliable, affordable high-speed Internet.
SpaceX president Gwynn Shotwell said that Starlink could provide coverage for nearly the entire planet by September along with possibly helping to fund the company’s ultimate goal of sending people to Mars by snagging a respectable share of the expected $1 trillion satellite Internet market. The company will be ready to start launching satellites again later this month after a two-month haitus.
Although it didn’t give an official reason for the pause, it might have been delayed due to legal and regulatory wrangling with competitors like ViaSat. Most recently, a panel of judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against a freeze on launches of more Starlink satellites that had been requested by ViaSat.
Starlink has been making its case for using Internet-providing satellites to close the “Digital Divide” by working with Native Americans like the Hoh Tribe and Cherokee Nation to provide early access to its service, striking a deal with Chile to bring the Internet to isolated communities as part of a pilot program, and working with a school district in Texas to provide Internet service for low-income students. Addressing the lack of reliable and inexpensive Internet service will help provide the same access to important services like virtual education, telehealth, and remote job opportunities that more connected areas have.
(It’s safe to say that SpaceX may be more aggressive than necessary about its plans to bring the Internet to large vehicles like buses and RVs, though. The FCC had to tell it to quit using its RDOF grant to bring the Internet to highway medians.)
SpaceX’s Starlink currently operates or is close to becoming operational in 12 countries in North America, Europe, and Australia. Public policy in some countries could wind up being one of the chief holdups in achieving global coverage even after it gets out of its “Better than Nothing Beta.” Russia, for instance, has floated the proposal of fining its citizens for using Starlink. Despite the regulatory challenges, SpaceX remains confident that it can snag a healthy market share of the satellite Internet service market in countries like the UK.