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Starlink internet coming soon to Philippines?


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Interesting, and lengthy, article about the system and how it works.  While relatively expensive I can see Philippine entrepreneurs, in cell dead spots, setting up small internet cafes or selling access to a router.  The area in and around Badian, just to the south of us, is one such area.  We rotate several (6-8) working students from Badian through our house on a rotating basis so they can do their school work via internet.  

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/starlink-explained-everything-you-should-know-about-elon-musk-s-satellite-internet-venture/ar-BB1dJtoa

Spoiler

When you think of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, chances are good that you think of his electric car company Tesla, his space-exploration venture SpaceX or his stint hosting Saturday Night Live (to say nothing of his history of stirring up controversy on social media or smoking weed with Joe Rogan). Maybe you just know him as one of the richest people on Earth.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifting off from Kennedy Space Center in May last year. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty Images© Provided by CNET The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifting off from Kennedy Space Center in May last year. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
Something you might be less familiar with is a venture of Musk's called Starlink, which aims to sell internet connections to almost anyone on the planet by way of a growing network of private satellites orbiting overhead.


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After years of development within SpaceX -- and after securing nearly $885.5 million in grant funds from the Federal Communications Commission at the end of 2020 -- Starlink's progress seems to be accelerating in 2021. In January, after about three years' worth of successful launches, the project surpassed 1,000 satellites delivered into orbit -- in June, SpaceX said the number sits at roughly 1,800. In February, Musk's company disclosed that Starlink was serving more than 10,000 customers. Now, after expanding preorders to even more potential customers, Musk says that Starlink has shipped more than 100,000 satellite internet terminals to customers in 14 countries.

a close up of a sign© Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
SpaceX says that it expects Starlink to reach global serviceability sometime this fall -- though regional availability will depend on regulatory approval. During a talk at Mobile World Congress in June of this year, Musk told an audience that Starlink would be available worldwide except at the North and South Poles starting in August. In September, Musk tweeted that Starlink would exit its initial beta phase in October, which indicates that the service is continuing to ramp up and expand.


The budding internet service isn't without its controversies. Members of the scientific community have raised concerns about the impact of Starlink's low-earth orbit satellites on night sky visibility. Meanwhile, satellite internet competitors including Viasat, HughesNet and Amazon's Project Kuiper have taken notice of Starlink's momentum, too, prompting plenty of regulatory jousting and attempts to slow Musk down.

All of that makes Starlink well worth keeping an eye on in 2021. For now, here's everything you should know about it.


OK, start at the beginning: What is Starlink, exactly?
Technically a division within SpaceX, Starlink is also the name of the spaceflight company's growing network -- or "constellation" -- of orbital satellites. The development of that network began in 2015, with the first prototype satellites launched into orbit in 2018.

In the years since, SpaceX has deployed over 1,000 Starlink satellites into orbit across dozens of successful launches. In January, for its first Starlink mission of 2021, SpaceX launched 60 satellites into orbit from Kennedy Space Center using the landable, relaunchable Falcon 9 orbital rocket. Subsequent launches, the most recent of which delivered another 60 satellites into orbit on May 26, have brought the total number of satellites in the constellation up to 1,737, though some of those satellites are prototypes or nonoperational units that aren't functioning parts of the network.

And those satellites can connect my home to the internet?
That's the idea, yes.

Just like existing providers of satellite internet like HughesNet or Viasat, Starlink wants to sell internet access -- particularly to people in rural areas and other parts of the world who don't already have access to high-speed broadband.

diagram: SpaceX's Starlink hardware includes a satellite dish and router, which you'll set up at home to receive the signal from space. SpaceX© Provided by CNET SpaceX's Starlink hardware includes a satellite dish and router, which you'll set up at home to receive the signal from space. SpaceX
"Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge," the Starlink website reads. "Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable."

All you need to do to make the connection is set up a small satellite dish at your home to receive the signal and pass the bandwidth on to your router. There's even a Starlink app for Android and iOS that uses augmented reality to help customers pick the best location and position for their receivers.

Starlink's service is only available in select regions in the US, Canada and abroad at this point, but the service now boasts more than 100,000 satellite terminals shipped to customers, and the coverage map will continue to grow as more satellites make their way into the constellation. Eventually, Starlink hopes to blanket the entire planet in a usable, high-speed Wi-Fi signal.

How fast is Starlink's internet service?
"Users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50 to 150 megabits per second and latency from 20 to 40 milliseconds in most locations over the next several months," Starlink's website says, while also warning of brief periods of no connectivity at all. "As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically."

To that end, Musk tweeted in February that he expects the service to double its top speeds to 300Mbps by the end of 2021.

CNET's John Kim signed up for the service at his home in California and recently began testing it out at a variety of locations. At home, he averaged download speeds around 78Mbps, and latency around 36ms. You can see more of his first impressions in the video posted above, or by clicking here.

How much does Starlink cost?
Starlink has begun accepting preorders from customers interested in joining the company's "Better Than Nothing" beta program. The cost of the service is billed at $99 per month, plus taxes and fees, plus an initial payment of $500 for the mountable satellite dish and router that you'll need to install at home.

Starlink says that it's taking orders from customers on a first-come, first-served basis and that some preorders could take as long as six months to fulfill.

$99 per month is a lot for an internet connection, especially one that isn't nearly as fast as a fiber connection, but Musk is betting that the cost will be worth it for people who have thus far lived without access to a reliably fast connection at all. 

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell recently told a forum on satellite technology that Starlink had no plans to add speed or pricing tiers, with the intention of keeping the service's pricing as straightforward as possible. Additionally, Shotwell said that she expects the $500 upfront cost of the receiver dish to come down in the coming years.

Where is Starlink available?
Despite promising to blanket the entire globe in coverage by this fall, Starlink service is currently limited to select regions in select countries, but the coverage map will grow considerably as more satellites join the constellation. Per Musk, the list of countries currently serviced by the growing network of low-earth orbit satellites includes the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. Starlink's preorder agreement includes options for requesting service in other countries, too, including Italy, Poland, Spain and Chile.

There's still a ways to go -- Starlink will likely need at least 10,000 satellites in orbit before it can claim to offer full service to a majority of the globe (and SpaceX has shown signs that it wants as many as 42,000 satellites in the constellation). Right now, it's only about 20% of the way there at best, with coverage focused on regions sitting between 45 and 53 degrees north latitude.

Still, Musk has been bullish about the Starlink timeline. During an interview at 2021's Mobile World Congress, Musk said that Starlink will hit worldwide availability except at the North and South Poles starting in August. Earlier in June, Shotwell expressed a similar sentiment, and said that Starlink would reach global serviceability sometime this fall.

"We've successfully deployed 1,800 or so satellites, and once all those satellites reach their operational orbit we will have continuous global coverage so that should be like [the] September time frame," she said.

In September, a Twitter user asked Musk when Starlink would finish its beta phase. "Next month," Musk replied.

Why satellites, anyway? Isn't fiber faster?
Fiber, or internet delivered via ground-laid fiber-optic cable, offers upload and download speeds that are indeed much faster than satellite internet -- but, as companies like Google will tell you, there's nothing fast about deploying the infrastructure necessary to get fiber to people's homes. That's not to say that there's anything simple about shooting satellites into space, but with fewer sharp-elbowed competitors -- and with a lot less red tape to cut through -- there's every reason to believe that services like Starlink will reach the bulk of underserved communities long before fiber ever will. Recent FCC filings also suggest that Starlink could ultimately double as a dedicated phone service, too.

And don't forget that this is Elon Musk we're talking about. SpaceX is the only company on the planet with a landable, reusable rocket capable of delivering payload after payload into orbit. That's a mighty advantage in the commercial space race. On top of that, Musk said in 2018 that Starlink will help provide SpaceX with revenue needed to fund the company's long-held ambition to establish a base on Mars. 

If that day arrives, it's also likely that SpaceX will try to establish a satellite constellation on the red planet, too. That means that Starlink customers are potentially doubling as guinea pigs for the Martian wireless networks of the future.

"If you send a million people to Mars, you better provide some way for them to communicate," Shotwell said in 2016, speaking about the company's long-term vision for Starlink. "I don't think the people who go to Mars are going to be satisfied with some terrible, old-fashioned radios. They'll want their iPhones or Androids on Mars."

text: Starlink's terms of service includes a Mars clause -- users must agree that Mars is a free planet unbound by the authority or sovereignty of any Earth-bound government. Starling/Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET© Provided by CNET Starlink's terms of service includes a Mars clause -- users must agree that Mars is a free planet unbound by the authority or sovereignty of any Earth-bound government. Starling/Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET
As CNET's Jesse Orral noted in a recent video about Starlink, you'll even find hints of Musk's plans for Mars in the Starlink terms of service, which at one point reads:

"For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities." 

Still, with top speeds currently pegged at 150Mbps, Starlink's satellite internet won't be anywhere near the gigabit fiber speeds people on Earth are used to anytime soon -- and that's due to the sheer distance each transmission needs to travel on its round trip from your home to the stratosphere. It's a factor that also jacks up latency, which is why you'll often notice awkward lulls in the conversation if you're talking to someone over a satellite connection.

That said, Starlink promises to improve upon existing expectations for satellite connections by placing satellites into orbit at lower altitudes than before -- 60 times closer to the Earth's surface than traditional satellites, per the company's claims. This low-earth orbit approach means that there's less distance for those Starlink signals to travel -- and thus, less latency. We'll let you know how those claims hold up once we're able to test the Starlink network out for ourselves.

chart: A Starlink outage on May 6, charted here on DownDetector and reported by Reddit users, seemed to affect users for a few hours. DownDetector© Provided by CNET A Starlink outage on May 6, charted here on DownDetector and reported by Reddit users, seemed to affect users for a few hours. DownDetector
Is Starlink reliable?
Early reports from outlets like Fast Company and CNBC seem to indicate that Starlink's first customers are satisfied with the service, though the company warns of "brief periods of no connectivity at all" during beta.

The website DownDetector.com, which tracks service outages, lists four disruptions to Starlink in 2021, one each in January, February, and April, with the most recent outage occurring on May 6. For comparison, DownDetector lists no major outages in 2021 for HughesNet, and one in February for ViaSat.

Starlink users spanning from Arizona to Alberta, Canada noted the May outage on Reddit -- for most, service seemed to resume within a few hours.

What about bad weather and other obstructions?
That's definitely one of the downsides to satellite internet. Per Starlink's FAQ, the receiver is capable of melting snow that lands on it, but it can't do anything about surrounding snow build-up and other obstructions that might block its line of sight to the satellite.

"We recommend installing Starlink in a location that avoids snow build-up and other obstructions from blocking the field of view," the FAQ reads. "Heavy rain or wind can also affect your satellite internet connection, potentially leading to slower speeds or a rare outage."

Are there any other issues with Starlink's satellites?
There's plenty of concern about the proliferation of privately owned satellites in space, and controversy in astronomical circles about the impact low-orbiting satellites have on the night sky itself. 

This long-exposure image of a distant galaxy group from Arizona's Lowell Observatory is marred by diagonal lines from light reflecting off Starlink satellites, shortly after their launch in 2019. Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory© Provided by CNET This long-exposure image of a distant galaxy group from Arizona's Lowell Observatory is marred by diagonal lines from light reflecting off Starlink satellites, shortly after their launch in 2019. Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory
In 2019, shortly after the deployment of Starlink's first broadband satellites, the International Astronomical Union released an alarm-sounding statement warning of unforeseen consequences for stargazing and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife.

"We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both," the statement reads.

Since then, Starlink has begun testing a variety of new designs intended to reduce the brightness and visibility of its satellites. At the start of 2020, the company tested a "DarkSat" satellite that included a special, nonreflective coating. Later, in June of 2020, the company launched a "VisorSat" satellite that features a special sunshade visor. In August, Starlink launched another batch of satellites -- this time, all of them were equipped with visors.

"We want to make sure we do the right thing to make sure little kids can look through their telescope," Shotwell said. "It's cool for them to see a Starlink. But they should be looking at Saturn, at the moon ... and not want to be interrupted."

"The Starlink teams have worked closely with leading astronomers around the world to better understand the specifics of their observations and engineering changes we can make to reduce satellite brightness," the company website reads.

OK. Where can I learn more about Starlink?
We'll continue to cover Starlink's progress from a variety of angles here on CNET, so stay tuned. You should also be sure to read Eric Mack's excellent profile of Starlink -- among other issues, it takes a close look at the project's goals and challenges, as well as the implications for underserved internet consumers, and for astronomers concerned with light pollution obstructing views in the night sky.

Beyond that, we expect to continue testing Starlink's network for ourselves throughout this year. When we know more about how the satellite service stacks up as an internet provider, we'll tell you all about it.

 

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Been wondering if we could help defray the cost by selling access to our router to the neighbors.

Another question- could we pay for it only during the 6 months of each year that we plan to be in the Phils? Probably not, but it can't hurt to ask.

Edited by Guy F.
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1 hour ago, Guy F. said:

Been wondering if we could help defray the cost by selling access to our router to the neighbors.

Always possible, but make sure they don't have any family member under 50, else they'll be downloading games, movies and music non-stop :smile:

1 hour ago, Guy F. said:

Another question- could we pay for it only during the 6 months of each year that we plan to be in the Phils? Probably not, but it can't hurt to ask.

I think that will depend on Starlink, or perhaps the provider who will franchise Starlink in the Philippines (if any). From their initial offering ($499 one-off installation fee and $99/month) I would imply that they might not be too keen on spot contracts...just like PLDT and Globe over here.

We will see... Starlink is definitely a great alternative to the 3 carriers in big cities, and possibly the only option in rural areas or small remote islands. 

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2 hours ago, Jack Peterson said:

 3?

 

PLDT, Globe and Smart?

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1 hour ago, GeoffH said:

 

PLDT, Globe and Smart?

Dito Telecommunity, the third player Duterte promised the Filipino as soon as he got elected.

A joint venture of China Telecom and an aptly revived local (from Mindanao) telecoms operator, called Mislatel.

Dito to launch 5G home broadband service in 2021

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10 hours ago, GeoffH said:

 

PLDT, Globe and Smart?

What about DITO  Last week had 60 down and 32 up Tested 3 times, via cell.

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14 hours ago, Gandang Smile said:

Dito Telecommunity, the third player Duterte promised the Filipino as soon as he got elected.

A joint venture of China Telecom and an aptly revived local (from Mindanao) telecoms operator, called Mislatel.

Dito to launch 5G home broadband service in 2021

 

5 hours ago, RBM said:

What about DITO  Last week had 60 down and 32 up Tested 3 times, via cell.

I guess the main issue is all the Phils based operators having to use the common undersea cables connecting to the rest of the world. Local high speed tests are all well and good, but when it comes to speeds further afield the local providers still suck! We have to have both PLDT and Globe to provide at least some kind of redundancy for my wife’s online teaching but often both are very slow to the point of being pretty useless! Hopefully Starlink and the UK’s One Web should avoid that issue. It might be expensive, but so is having to pay for the two incumbents pathetic offering!

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2 hours ago, Huggybearman said:

I guess the main issue is all the Phils based operators having to use the common undersea cables connecting to the rest of the world. Local high speed tests are all well and good, but when it comes to speeds further afield the local providers still suck! We have to have both PLDT and Globe to provide at least some kind of redundancy for my wife’s online teaching but often both are very slow to the point of being pretty useless! Hopefully Starlink and the UK’s One Web should avoid that issue. It might be expensive, but so is having to pay for the two incumbents pathetic offering!

Unfortunately, this is a problem with all backbone infrastucture in the world. If you're in Manila, Singapore or Hong-kong, you will have to pass through Guam, Hawaii and the US before you reach London.

This is why major cloud providers, where most commercial services reside, provide dedicated data centers in different regions. If you are accessing Netflix, you will be most probably connecting to a server in Singapore or Hong-kong, if not Manila.

Some of the smaller contents or service providers may be more region-centric (e.g. US-based and US-centric), so someone willing to use the service will have no other option to connect to a US server. The cost of cloud services is going lower everyday, so it's just a matter of time before even the smallest service providers start hosting their services in multiple regions.

 

 

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Starlink will not need the overseas cable/fiber. Your outbound traffic goes direct to the satellites. I was at a camping festival for several weeks this spring in the northern US. Someone had starlink setup they would share for a fee. Very fast, like fiber fast. But you can still get brief dropouts because only a small fraction of the orbiting satellite constellation have been put in orbit. The satellites orbit in low earth orbit. So it is kind of like you are driving past cell towers where your signal switches from one tower to another as you drive. Being in LEO is what allows Starlink to have such low latency. Having thousands of satellites in the system is what will allow for millions of subscribers.

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