Starlink Offers Connectivity Promise for the North


Starlink believes that its satellite Internet system is so simple and easy to use that even the least technologically interested user can get it up and running in minutes.

“We set it up for what we call ‘instant gratification,’” said Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink and commercial sales, from his base in Los Angeles, Calif., During an online presentation. May 18.

“So the box arrives at your doorstep, you can turn it off on your lawn, plug it in and you have the Internet.” It is, literally, a five minute process.

Speaking during the year Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), Hofeller held an audience captive.

Delegates represented communities across Northern Ontario whose residents have, for years, struggled with slow and unreliable Internet service – so long as they have access to it.

According to a report published by Blue Sky Net last year, Northern Internet users experience average download speeds of just under 9 megabits per second (Mbps) and download speeds of just over 5 Mbps.

But the modern user generally needs minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps and minimum download speeds of 10 Mbps to participate in activities related to business, education, telemedicine, communication, etc.

Last fall, FONOM called on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to give approval for Starlink to expand its Canadian operations.

“We now know that our citizens need connectivity greater than 50/10 megabits per second,” said Danny Whalen, president of FONOM at the time.

“FONOM thinks the Starlink program is our best option.”

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The company, established in 2015, aims to provide high bandwidth, low latency internet service to anyone, anywhere in the world.

To date, it has launched more than 1,500 satellites into space and 60 new satellites are deployed every two to three weeks, Hofeller noted.

Canada, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are among the countries that currently offer services..

Now that the deployment of its base system is complete, Starlink is looking to the high latitudes of the polar regions, he said, which will benefit Northerners in rural and remote areas that do not. not getting great service now.

“Over the past year, quality internet access decides whether children can learn or not, whether businesses can thrive or not, and it has become a necessary pillar of our lives,” said Hofeller.

A Starlink system consists of a satellite dish – “the size of a large pizza,” Hofeller said – a power over Ethernet cable and a modem, all of which simply need to be plugged into a power source to that the user starts. .

As long as the satellite has a clear view of the sky, it can orient itself and start providing service. The antenna even has internal heating to melt accumulated snow and ice that could interfere with operation.

But it is not cheap.

The hardware costs $ 499 (around $ 604), while the monthly service charge is $ 99 (around $ 119).

Hofeller said it wasn’t even the true total cost.

“Right now the cost of the equipment is much higher than what we sell it for; we are taking it at a loss, ”he said. “But we are working hard to keep costs down.”

Watch below as Pikangikum First Nation becomes the first community in Canada to connect to Starlink. (FSET video)

Yet those in the North who have already signed it are touting its benefits.

In early December, Pikangikum First Nation, a remote and air-conditioned community of 3,000 people located over 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, became the first Canadian community to receive the service.

With the help of FSET, a Kenora-based information technology and services company, Pikangikum’s offices and institutions were all connected, reaching over 130Mbps – a huge improvement over the 3Mbps they had previously.

“I am a community person who really believes in his community, and I hope this will give some hope to the younger generations,” said Vernon Kejik, who works in victim services with the Pikangikum Health Authority, in a video testimony on living. “We create courses for the youngest.”

Although Starlink in Canada is technically considered to be in its beta testing phase, Hofeller said some customers are getting “incredible” speeds: 50 to 150 Mbps, and even up to 300 and 400 Mbps in some areas, from tariffs. which he describes as “unprecedented” for certain regions.

The service is currently only available to individual residential customers, but Hofeller said the company plans to launch a service for businesses soon.

As more satellites go into orbit and more service areas are activated, Hofeller said northerners will have plenty of opportunities to secure their own part of the sky.

“What we’re really focused on,” said Hofeller, “is to provide incredible service to customers – especially outside of metropolitan areas, in northern Canada and even central – who don’t. not have many options for a quality Internet. “


About Hannah Schaeffer

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