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Starlink: the future of self sufficiency?

A truth of modern day infrastructure is that many people cannot access large scale, amenity providing systems due to their remote living locations, requiring independent, off-grid systems to meet their needs. Think of a remote farmhouse in the far reaches of the Scottish highlands, it is not feasible to connect this property to a national network. The most common form of self-sufficiency can be seen in domestic power generation, when people use small scale generators to produce their own electricity. However this can extend to other amenities such as sourcing water from local sources or natural gas production from composting setups. Modern life increasingly relies on being connected to the internet for work, hobbies or communicating with friends and family. This has led to the internet being considered an amenity in itself. Historically, due to its reliance on a solid state cable system, the internet has been a difficult amenity for off grid systems to acquire reliably and with suitable speed and bandwidth.

Alternative for remote areas

However, as of recently, this has begun to change with the commercialisation of new technology which uses satellites to relay internet signals. The service is named Starlink and is provided by the company SpaceX, an aerospace company in the US. Internet signals in the form of radio waves are sent from the internet user on the ground and bounced off a satellite in Earth’s orbit to be received by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The service only requires a small satellite dish be installed on the property and provides average download speeds of 100 to 200 Mbps and upload speeds of 30 Mbps, with a latency of 20 ms (on par with ground based systems).

This provides a promising alternative source of internet accessibility currently boasting 145,000 active users with ‘hundreds of thousands waiting to try it out’. Unfortunately, due to current chip shortages, manufacturing the equipment to provide the service at scale has not been possible leading to many potential users waiting for their service to start. The current focus has been on customers who live in the remote areas rather than those in densely populated areas such as major cities as these people can benefit more from the service, while those in cities can access similar services for half the price.

Electricity network - Microgrid