Elon Musk activated satellite Internet in Ukraine

SpaceX, Elon Musk's US space company, has sent a supply of antennas and other devices to Ukraine to be able to connect to Starlink, its service for connecting to the Internet via satellite. The company has not provided many other details, but the initiative should allow it to continue to access and communicate over the Internet even in the event of interruptions and limitations of the more traditional network access services, cable or cellular, due to the attacks. Russians.

On February 26, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted Musk asking for his help: «While you are trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine! As your rockets successfully land on Earth from Space, Russian missiles attack Ukrainian civilians! We ask you to supply Starlink terminals to Ukraine and to invite sane Russians to make themselves heard. “

Musk replied to Fedorov by telling him that Starlink was active and reachable in Ukraine and that new terminals for Internet access would be arriving.

Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.

– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022

A couple of days later, Fedorov posted a photograph on Twitter showing a truck loaded with Starlink terminals – packages that include an antenna and some sort of router. It is unclear how many devices have been provided by SpaceX, nor how they will be used by the Ukrainian government or the population.

Starlink – here. Thanks, @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/dZbaYqWYCf

– Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 28, 2022

As a communications engineer from Kiev reported to the technology site The Verge, until a few days ago Starlink could not be used from Ukraine. The system is in fact still under development and is not present in all geographic areas, also because it requires some receiving stations on the ground to function. Following the request of the Ukrainian government and fears of possible disruptions to conventional networks, it appears that SpaceX has accelerated the process of activating the service in Ukraine.

Starlink is one of SpaceX's most ambitious projects, and according to Musk it could also become one of his space company's most profitable businesses. The plan envisages bringing thousands of small satellites into orbit near the Earth, in order to create a constellation that always ensures the presence of at least one satellite above the portion of the territory in which it is located.

Through an access system, consisting of a modem and a small satellite dish, you can access the Internet without needing a connection to a cable or cellular network. The system therefore has the advantage of being able to be used practically anywhere, even in remote areas with no coverage via traditional mobile networks.

So far SpaceX has sent about 2,000 satellites into orbit for Starlink, but in a few years it hopes to bring several thousands more, making connections more stable and faster. The company says it has at least 145,000 active users and in recent months has boosted production of terminals, so in demand that they have a long waiting list.

The topic of waiting is frequently discussed on Reddit in a channel dedicated to Starlink, but in the last few days several users have said that they are willing to wait a few more weeks, if this makes it possible to send more terminals. in Ukraine. At the moment, however, it is not known what is the origin of the devices sent to the country by SpaceX, nor if their delivery has any repercussions on the production and deliveries of the other terminals.

Starlink is already available in several countries, including Italy. The kit that includes antenna and access modem costs about 500 euros, while the monthly subscription to access the Internet is 99 euros. These are very high prices compared to those of classic high-speed cable connections, such as those in optical fiber, but to be evaluated for those who live in remote areas, where telephone companies do not arrive, not even with their cellular networks.

In order to function, the Starlink dish must be placed outside and in a point where it can be pointed towards a completely free portion of the sky. In this way it can pick up the signals from the various satellites of the constellation that pass over it, offering a stable connection. The engineer interviewed by The Verge thought that there might be reception problems from his home in Kiev, but he managed to get a good connection (200 Mbps) on the first try.

In recent days, Russian attacks have affected various infrastructures in Ukraine, including telecommunications. On Tuesday, March 1, an attack seriously damaged the main antenna for transmitting the TV signal in Kiev, also killing five people. Further attacks on repeaters and telecommunications centers could render the mobile network and Internet connections via smartphones and other devices unusable.

Thanks to the Internet, from the day of the attack, Ukrainian institutions and the population have been able to coordinate their military and defense activities, and have also been able to show the world videos and photographs of the destruction caused by the Russian attacks. Solutions such as Starlink's could make it possible to maintain communications even in the worst-case scenario, but they could not, however, completely replace traditional cable and mobile networks.