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Elon Musk’s SpaceX begins testing Starlink broadband in the UK



Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON – SpaceX’s satellite broadband service Starlink is now being tested in the UK after it was licensed by the British telecom regulator Ofcom.

Starlink was issued with an “Earth Station Network License”

; in November, an Ofcom spokesman told CNBC on Tuesday. SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The £ 200 ($ 272) license a year allows Starlink to sell satellite dishes and other communications equipment in the UK, allowing people to pick up signals transmitted from Starlink’s network of satellites.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk and is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company. It announced the creation of a Starlink subdivision in 2015.

Musk, who is now the world’s richest person, has said he wants to improve internet access in parts of the world that are not currently served by broadband providers. He plans to do this by putting thousands of small telecommunication satellites in orbit with low ground that can radiate high-speed, low-latency internet to the ground.

In an interview in March last year, Musk said that SpaceX could earn up to $ 30 billion a year by offering broadband. He said Starlink would be “useful for telecommunications companies because Starlink will serve the customers who are most difficult to serve” and added that 5G is not good for the countryside because “you need reach.”

Starlink, which will compete with the UK’s OneWeb, aims to have 1440 of its 260 kg (570 lb) satellites in orbit by the end of 2021.

The company, which is primarily focused on connecting rural areas where the internet is unreliable or unavailable, has invited people in the US and Canada to try the service since October.

It now invites people in the UK via email, according to reports and users of social media. Starlink charges UK customers £ 439 for satellite dish and other communications equipment, in addition to a £ 89 monthly fee and £ 54 shipping.

Those testing the service can expect data rates of between 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and 150 Mbps, according to reports. The average broadband speed in the UK is 64 Mbps, but those in rural areas often struggle to get close to it. It is unclear how many homes and offices currently use Starlink’s service.

SpaceX set up a UK unit in London called Starlink Internet Services in August last year, according to a document filed with UK companies.

A picture of what appears to be one of the first Starlink deliveries in the UK was shared on Reddit by Philip Hall, who lives in Devon, southwest England.

“As a short-term broadband enthusiast, I signed up for beta quite early,” Hall told CNBC via Reddit on Thursday.

Hall, who once deployed air defense networks to the British military, said: “The technology in this, at the consumer level, is astounding.”

In terms of performance, Hall said he can consistently get 80 Mbps download speeds at home.

He suspects he got a Starlink right because the company wants data before a commercial rollout, and he is at the right latitude.

Hall described the layout and said that it is just like many other appliances. He installed an app on his Android phone, checked to make sure the dish had a clear view of the sky (something that was easy in Devon in the countryside) and plugged it in. “The app asks you to register a name and password, and you are cooking,” he said.

Greece, Germany and Australia have reportedly also approved Starlink’s offer.


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