Earlier this week, many baffled Brits took to Twitter after spotting UFO-like lights racing through the night sky.
Fortunately, these were not alien spacecraft, but instead, they are satellites from Elon Musk’s Starlink fleet.
Starlink is a controversial scheme that aims to beam WiFi to people from space using a "mega constellation" of thousands of satellites. It includes thousands of satellites that are designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
The service reportedly costs £89 a month on top of a £439 fee for the router and dish so definitely not cheap! Ofcom had formally granted permission (licence) for SpaceX to launch their new ultrafast Starlink satellite broadband service in the United Kingdom which apparently took place in November 2020 and this explains the above developments.
Once set up, the dish connects to SpaceX's satellite constellation, promising download speeds of up to 210 megabits per second (Mbps).
That's more than six times the average download speed in the UK, or faster than 95 per cent of US connections.
Starlink explained: “With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.”
Greece, Germany and Australia have also approved the new system, according to local reports.
Starlink has already launched hundreds of the satellites and started testing a beta service in North America. It’s part of the billionaire’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX.
A Starlink satellite
The approval paves the way for Musk’s venture to enter the British broadband market where it could compete with terrestrial U.K. Internet providers like BT Group Plc and traditional satellite firms like Inmarsat Group Holdings Ltd., as well as OneWeb, the low-earth orbit satellite system recently rescued from bankruptcy by the government and India’s telecoms conglomerate Bharti Global.
However, several astronomers have raised concerns that one of the satellites could pass in front of a telescope and obscure an image. In a recent study, published in arXiv, researchers led by Stefano Gallozzi, wrote: "Depending on their altitude and surface reflectivity, their contribution to the sky brightness is not negligible for professional ground-based observations.
Although this is a controversial issue, there are many who may welcome this, especially in those areas where they are unable to get wifi service due to their locations.