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Consumer Technology

Starlink Revolution in Remote Australia

The following comes from an interview with Gary Salisbury.

Elon Musk’s Starlink has reached Australia. Starlink is designed for the approximately 3 billion people worldwide who have limited or no internet, not for city areas or those with fast access, yet. Australians living in remote areas or black spots are some of the people already benefitting.

The stories of my early satellite involvement were for people out of town with no ADSL available. They had dial-up access often at 5–10 kbps over noisy old phone lines. They were thrilled when we turned up and provided 256, then later 512 kbps download speed.

These were free systems from the federal government, with generally low monthly fees. However, the plans were not large with peak/off-peak allowances. They were similar to sky muster.

So Starlink is revolutionary!

The SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband system is rendering the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster geo-stationary satellite internet system obsolete. Starlink offers a low latency connection (~40 milliseconds) and download speed around 200 Mbps with unlimited data.

This is not unusual for the Musk companies I guess in that they regularly disrupt industries with their transformational new technologies.

We at Kansat have been involved in the installation of satellite broadband systems under several federal government schemes, like the Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme and Broadband Connect, since the early 2000s.

Prior to these systems, there existed only “one-way” satellite internet via a small receive-only dish and a dial-up modem or ISDN return channel. Earlier still, in the late 1990s, we installed several and used ourselves such a system called ZacNet which involved reception from a Middle Eastern source on a geo-stationary satellite via a 2.3 metre C band dish with dial-up modem return channel. This was super-speed internet at the time, receiving data at 400 kbps (0.4 Mbps)!

Until now, those living outside the reach of fibre to the node or Fixed Wireless NBN had either NBN’s Sky Muster satellite or Telstra’s 4G, and occasionally Optus 4G if a usable signal reached them.

Sky Muster peaks at around 25 Mbps download speed and generally is limited to around 200 GB/month for reasonable cost — however, more than 50% of data is allocated to off-peak times (i.e., 1:00am—7:00am). This means families often use up peak data and are slowed to 256–512 kbps during peak times, including evening streaming times. These plans can cost only marginally less than the $139/month for unlimited Starlink service averaging 150–250 Mbps download/15 Mbps upload. Latency of Sky Muster systems is typically around 600–900 milliseconds, making it unusable for gaming.

Starlink speed test

Typical Starlink speed test. Photo courtesy of Gary Salisbury.

The Starlink kit costs around AUD$900, which is paid when signing up on the Starlink website and is then delivered within a week, at the moment. The antenna is a 600mm x 300mm motorised panel antenna supplied with 22 metres of cable with proprietary connectors. The system will plug & play. However, the supplied mount is not suitable for our climate or roof construction, so my business Kansat installs them professionally on a cyclone-rated roof mount.

Starlink dish Kansat

Starlink dish installed by Kansat. Photo courtesy of Gary Salisbury

The supplied router is dual-band WiFi only. Though, we can supply a Starlink ethernet adapter for our customers who need that feature. Or these can be purchased from Starlink.

I have been using Starlink since March of this year and can vouch for reliability even through storm rain. More customer feedback:

“Millions are not connected to the Internet — we’re thrilled to say that we’re no longer among them. Blistering fast and online in minutes, Starlink ends a six-year journey.” —Neil V. from New South Wales Australia

We expect to be joining Gary and Neil soon.

Featured image courtesy of Starlink

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