High-speed internet from the stars via Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite network

Like water and electricity, having a high-speed internet connection to our homes and businesses is no longer a luxury but an absolute necessity.

As the Commercial Director of an established business with its headquarters in an East Devon village on the outskirts of Exeter, the team at KOR Communications and our neighbouring businesses, have been struggling along with a poor, copper-wire broadband connection for the last few years.

Openreach had promised us an FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) connection to our office by October 2021, as part of the roll out of the public network in the area, but at the end of 2020 they announced that this stretch of the operation was now cancelled due to insufficient funds remaining to complete the job. The solution they offered was a leased line for £325 + VAT a month.

Like most companies, our staff have been working from home during the pandemic and thanks to our VOIP phone system which was installed in January 2020, our remote office operation has been seamless for our clients. However, the reality is that, due to poor broadband, the team has struggled to access our server using a VPN connection which has, not only caused huge frustration but also affected productivity at times.

To attempt to overcome this, we started using Microsoft One Drive and moved our data into the cloud, acknowledging that we still need to improve our internet connection to ensure that those members of the team working in the office can do so as effectively and efficiently as their colleagues at home.

Not wanting to commit to the leased line, and with no FTTP installation on the horizon we were intrigued by the potential of Elon Musk’s Starlink service which was launched in the UK early in 2021; a high speed broadband service, delivered via satellites orbiting the earth and received by a satellite dish fixed to an exterior wall.

Sign-up is via the Starlink website using your postcode and confirming your exact location on a ‘Google Earth’ style map. Starlink promise to contact you when they can offer a service and we received an email a few days later.  At this point, you can purchase your satellite dish for just under £500 and it’s shipped from California. Our dish arrived within days.

Setting-up is relatively straightforward. There is an app of course, to help you site the dish using your phone camera. Pointing it at the sky in a northerly direction, you are able to see where the dish is best placed to avoid any obstructions. This is important as the dish is powered so that it can move to track the satellites as they cross the sky and the satellites’ coverage on earth can be tracked here.

The dishes are also heated, so snow or frost will not settle and affect the reception. Although the dish comes with its own mini tripod, we decided to mount our dish above the roof line to have a clear and uninterrupted view of the northern sky.

Once in place and operational, the app will allow you to run a speed test and keep an eye on usage and dropouts. The service is still in BETA and for this reason we kept a careful eye over the first fortnight to see how resilient the service was before implementing it. We’ve found that customer service is very good via the app and you can upload a screen shot to evidence your feedback. Starlink have responded to us within 48 hrs.

The service improved noticeably in early February after 120 satellites were released into orbit, and on Friday 19th February, we switched KOR’s broadband connection over to Starlink. There are still some dropouts but they are minimal, usually a few minutes every 12 hours. A couple of internal Zoom meetings have been adversely affected by dropout but the download speeds are very impressive, usually around 80 to 120Mb.

Elon Musk has announced that speeds will double by Summer 2021. Whilst gamers won’t be happy with the latency speeds, it doesn’t worry us.

The monthly service fee is £89, which is not much more than you would pay for an FTTP connection of a similar speed… if you can get one of course.

In my opinion, this service is an ideal solution for companies (or homes) who require a high speed broadband connection but for whatever reason will not receive an FTTP connection in the near future. There is no contract and you can cancel the service whenever you want to.

For more about Starlink, visit www.starlink.com or if you have any questions about our experience using it, please contact me at guy.newman@korcommunications.co.uk.