Elon Musk’s SpaceX has set up a Starlink satellite base on the Isle of Man
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony in Berlin on December 1, 2020.
Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – Starlink, the space internet service established in 2015 by Elon Musk’s space transportation company, SpaceX, has set up a “ground station” on a small self-contained island in the Irish Sea to help it transmit the internet from satellites in Low Earth. orbit to homes and offices.
The Starlink ground station on the Isle of Man, first reported by The Telegraph at the end of last month, can be seen on the Starlink.sx website.
The Isle of Man government said Starlink was working with local communications provider Bluewave, adding that they had together licensed some of the spectrum available on the island.
Bluewave has a ground station just outside the capital city of Douglas which can be viewed on Google Maps. It bought the site last year from SES Satellite Leasing. SES withdrew from the Isle of Man last summer.
The site has between four and eight radomes, according to a local source who works in the satellite industry who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to discuss the matter. These are structural, weather-resistant housings that protect a radar antenna, which sends and receives data transmissions.
“There is a nearly new vacant base station network here, directly linked to the data centers,” said another source who works in the Isle of Man tech industry, who asked to remain anonymous because it is not directly involved in the Starlink project. The source added that it has “an excellent scan of the horizon as being surrounded by the sea means that there is nothing in the way.”
Measuring 32 miles long and 13 miles wide, the Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency that sits in the middle of the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from England, Scotland, from Ireland and Wales. Starlink already has bases in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall in England, and the Isle of Man base will allow the company to provide global internet coverage throughout Britain.
The island’s location, spectrum and existing satellite infrastructure all contributed to Starlink’s decision, according to the two CNBC sources.
The first source, who received a Starlink kit in May, said the island has a “very efficient” telecommunications regulator that issues relatively inexpensive licenses quickly.
“So, of course, the Isle of Man is a low tax jurisdiction, so [there is] very little overhead, ”they added. “Additionally, the nation has an adequacy agreement with the EU for GDPR compliance. All of this makes the island a good location for satellite or data related services. The GDPR is a set of data protection and privacy regulations introduced by the European Union in May 2018.
The island also has its own frequency bands which are less busy than those used in the UK; the Isle of Man has only 85,000 inhabitants while the United Kingdom has around 70 million.
The Isle of Man Communications and Utilities Regulatory Authority confirmed Thursday to CNBC that Starlink and Bluewave have been granted a license to “provide services and locate associated equipment on the island.”
A spokesperson for the island’s business department told CNBC: “This is very exciting and positive news for the island, which will allow the deployment of satellite broadband service on the island and beyond.”
They added: “Locally, the licensing of available spectrum will provide more choice to local consumers and potential additional jobs in the island’s telecommunications sector.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC, while Bluewave declined to comment.
What is Starlink?
Starlink ultimately wants to provide the world with faster internet, starting with improving internet access in parts of the world that are currently not served by broadband providers.
It allows people to connect to the Internet through a satellite dish placed on or near a person’s property. The Internet is transmitted to the dish via a network of Starlink satellites that have been put into orbit by SpaceX and ground stations.
The company said it plans to spend $ 10 billion to place 12,000 small satellites in low earth orbit capable of delivering high-speed, low-latency internet to the ground. It has launched 1,700 to date and the service is used by 90,000 customers in 12 countries.
“You can assume that they will need many ground stations, in many places, to provide uninterrupted coverage,” Craig Moffett, analyst at research firm MoffettNathanson, told CNBC.
“The satellites are not yet equipped with fiber interconnects, so for now they have to be in constant contact with the ground. This requires a huge number of ground stations,” added Moffett.