Political and military leaders are worried about the control SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has over the satellite communications market, especially in combat zones.
The New York Times reports US and Ukrainian military officials are concerned about Musk, because the Ukrainian military relies heavily on his Starlink service. Ukrainian officials have been concerned enough to talk with other satellite Internet providers, though they acknowledged none rival Starlink’s reach.
“Starlink is indeed the blood of our entire communication infrastructure now,” Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s digital minister, said in an interview.
Starlink uses geofencing to restrict where the service is available on the front lines. At one point, Musk denied the Ukrainian military’s request to turn on Starlink near Crimea, the Russian-controlled territory, affecting battlefield strategy. Musk has previously said that Starlink can’t be used for long-range drone attacks.
Late last year, about 1,300 Starlink terminals purchased through a British supplier stopped working in the country after the Ukrainian government could not pay the $2,500 monthly fee for each, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
At least nine other countries — including in Europe and the Middle East — have also brought up Starlink with American officials over the past 18 months, with some questioning Musk’s power over the technology, two US intelligence officials told the NYT.
Taiwan is said to be reluctant to use Starlink partly because of Musk’s business links to China.
Few nations will speak publicly about their concerns, however, for fear of alienating the CEO.
“This is not just one company, but one person,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a cybersecurity expert who co-founded the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank and has advised governments on satellite Internet. “You are completely beholden to his whims and desires.”
Africa Mobile Networks (AMN), a pan-African provider of towers and Radio Access Network (RAN) technology, has signed a backhaul deal with Starlink. AMN plans to deploy Starlink terminals at sites in Nigeria within 2023 as part of a wider project to connect 700 additional rural communities before the end of the year.
Speedcast’s Brazilian subsidiary SC CapRock has signed a deal to develop private 4G/LTE networks with Nokia incorporating Starlink. The agreement aims to provide connectivity in remote locations in Brazil.
Starlink is being tested in Yellowstone National Park for volcanic and seismic data monitoring. While most of the six borehole stations in the park rely on cellular communications, this can become slow in tourist season, so Starlink is being tested as an alternative.
Last week SpaceX launched another 22 v2 Mini Starlink satellites as part of the company’s second-generation fleet.
Starlink has recently launched in Malawi and Kenya, and gained approval to operate in Malaysia.
Starlink is now available in the Philippines, and being used to connect communities from the Blaan Tribe.
In other news, it seems SpaceX is set to merge Internet-of-Things provider Swarm with the wider Starlink unit, after it was acquired in 2021. TechCrunch reports Swarm has emailed its customers saying it will no longer be selling new devices. The SpaceX unit said it will continue to support ongoing VHF communications between Earth and space using its SwarmBEEs satellite constellation.
OneWeb’s new test satellite launched successfully
OneWeb, the global satellite provider concentrating on the Internet of Things (IoT), and broadband services has successfully transmitted data from its new prototype JoeySat The new machine is testing a variety of new features as part of R&D for the company’s Gen2 satellite, including beam-hopping capabilities.
Developing in partnership with the European Space Agency, JoeySat is in a near-polar orbit and will send signals via ground stations in Norway and Sweden. Experiments will include end-to-end communications with dynamic resource allocation, and 5G pilot tests with the University of Surrey.
OneWeb and BT have completed a rural broadband trial on Lundy Island, around 20 miles off the UK’s North Devon coast The island has a population of less than 30 people.
According to Eutelsat, which is undergoing a merger with OneWeb, the LEO satellite firm reached its $50 million revenue target at the end of June. The operator has an order backlog of $900m, according to Eutelsat’s latest quarterly earnings.
In India, OneWeb is reportedly seeking access to more spectrum. Advanced Television reports OneWeb is seeking trial satellite spectrum from India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the Ka-band (27.5 to 29.1GHz and 29.5 to 30GHz) and Ku-band (14GHz) in order to test its earth stations and user access terminals.
Thailand’s National Telecom (NT) is looking to develop a ground station to serve OneWeb. The two companies are requestion government permission to install a gateway at NT’s ground station facility in Ubon Ratchathani province with a Q4 2023 completion date.
Other satellite news
- Ground Station-as-a-Service provider Leaf Space has raised €20 million ($22m) in a Series B funding round along with a further €15m in Venture Debt investment from the European Investment Bank.
Investors include CDP Venture Fondo Evoluzione, Neva SGR, SIMEST, RedSeed Ventures, Primo Space, and Whysol Investments. The money will be used to expand the company’s network of ground stations.
- Kleos Space had declared bankruptcy. The company launched three clusters of four satellites to detect radio-frequency signals and pinpoint their location, offering RF monitoring data to government and commercial customers.
- Hughes’ Jupiter 3 satellite was successfully launched into orbit by a SpaceX rocket last week. The 500Gbps Maxar-made machine, also known as EchoStar XXIV, operates in the Ka-Band (plus V-and Q-bands for gateways) and will offer speeds up to 100Mbps over the Americas.
- The ESA has installed a new Telemetry, Tracking and Control (TT&C) facility at its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, to control the Galileo GNSS satellite fleet.
- Chinese CASIC says it will begin building a constellation of 300 satellites in very-low Earth orbit later this year.
- IoT platform Soracom announced a new strategic partnership with Skylo Technologies.
- Telefónica and Sateliot have conducted a satellite 5G trial. The companies extended the coverage of Telefónica’s terrestrial 5G network through standard GSMA roaming using Sateliot’s satellite network.