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The UK has given the green light to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service, and users in the country have already begun receiving their kit for the company’s public beta.
Ofcom granted Elon Musk’s aerospace company authorization for Starlink in November, a spokesman for the regulator told Insider Monday. The company began running a Starlink beta in the US in late 2020.
The UK license allows Starlink to compete against terrestrial internet providers, such as BT Group, and traditional satellite companies such as OneWeb, which was rescued from bankruptcy by the British government and India’s telecoms firm Bharti Global in November.
People in the UK who signed up for SpaceX’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test have started receiving the Starlink kit, which costs £439 ($591) up front, plus £84 ($120) for the monthly subscription.
Philip Hall, based in rural Devon, south-west England, confirmed to Insider on Friday that he received the Wifi router and terminal to connect to the satellites on New Year’s Eve.
Beforehand, Hall was getting download speeds of only 0.5 megabits per second (Mbps) with BT internet, he said. Now with Starlink, he’s averaging 85 Mbps. “Within the hour we ran a Zoom quiz with grandchildren — it was wonderful,” he said.
SpaceX said in an email to subscribers on October 26 that users participating in the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test could expect speeds of between 50 Mbps and 150 Mbps. Some US users say they’re already getting download speeds of more than 210 Mbps.
Musk’s ultimate goal for Starlink is to deliver superfast broadband around the world by enveloping the Earth with up to 42,000 satellites. Starlink is part of the billionaire’s aerospace company, SpaceX, which has so far blasted at least 830 working Starlink satellites into orbit.
UK-based OneWeb planned to launch 650 satellites into orbit by the end of 2020, according to a December mission briefing. The space firm wants to eventually provide global internet coverage with up to 48,000 satellites — 6,000 more than what SpaceX plans for its Starlink constellation.
Starlink started testing its beta service in North America and southern Canada in 2020. The UK isn’t the only major market that SpaceX is entering: Greece, Germany and Australia have also approved Musk’s broadband service, according to reports.
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