We live in an awesome time to be connected or to get connected. Just a few years ago we were without much choice and not more than a decade ago “speed” wasn’t a thing we actively measured, internet was binary – it was either on or off.
But today, thanks to Government, Private Enterprise and the new space race – it’s all coming up roses no matter where you live.
In the city, we’ve got great 5G alternatives to the fixed-line NBN which the big-three telcos will always favour if you ask them – because all teh money goes in their coffers, they don’t have to pay the NBN wholesale rates.
However, in regional Australia – the real frontline of the broadband divide, things haven’t been as easy.
Without the Government’s NBN investment, I’m not sure we’d like to think about just how dire things would be in the bush – so just cap your NBN hatred for a minute and realise that is a fact.
Satellite options for the most remote, and Fixed Wireless (like a dedicated mobile phone connection) for many regional areas.
1% of homes are serviced by Satellite, while 4% are serviced by Fixed Wireless. Oh who cares right? That’s enough for them. No, people living in those areas could arguably benefit from the faster speeds given their likely reliance on online services.
This is where Elon Musk’s SpaceX comes in. Using SpaceX rockets, Elon has been launching tiny satellites into low earth orbit for a while now, building a network of communications satellites serving large parts of the world, including a vast part of Australia.
It’s called StarLink. Order it and you’re going to get a speed greater than NBN’s fixed wireless, Satellite and even Fibre to the Curb technologies can offer.
At my brother’s property in the regional NSW town of Young, he has a Fixed Wireless connection.
Frankly, it’s bloody good. My speed test today showed speeds over 50Mbps down and 7 up.
For that, he pays Aussie Broadband $79 a month, and gets unlimited data.
Working a treat.
So, how would StarLink go there?
I sat my little dish out in the yard with clear views of the sky (If you’re putting it at home there are roof mount systems don’t worry), and connected the unit to power.
It comes with an enormous cord for the disk, while inside a small little router does all the work.
Once it found it’s place, and got online, we were rocking.
And a speed test confirmed it. Over 180Mbps down and 15 up. Well in excess of double.
Problem is, it’s nearly double the price. $139 per month, and there’s a nearly $1000 setup cost to get the disk sent to you ($924).
Is Starlink Worth it?
If speed is your measure of success, then hell yeah!
Personally, If I lived in an area serviced by NBN Fixed Wireless or Satellite, I’d be on Starlink in a heartbeat. The vastly higher speeds are a no-brainer.
However, in real-terms, a 50Mbps connection is going to serve most small families very well, so for the extra $50 a month, it’s a huge leap in cost just to download an XBox game faster – no?
Utterly remarkable technology, and I assume it will help fund the vast space program of SpaceX.
But I have one big caveat on the excitement about it. NBN prices may vary here and there, and may go up or down over time. But they are in some ways government regulated, and in other ways competitively controlled.
Elon Musk is not beholden to that, so there’s no reason why in a short or medium term prices won’t go up, and or a new tier of access that is not unlimited introduced. Just be warned.