SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this week, and it could soon be getting a boost from a European government. The space agency is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a satellite network called Starlink that would use a constellation of thousands of small satellites to provide internet access globally, and it could also open doors to new business opportunities. The government-backed Starlink project is one of the biggest gambles in spaceflight, and it could cost the European taxpayer up to $1 billion.
Germany is no stranger to starry-eyed technological projects, and this week the country became the latest to get in on Elon Musk’s futuristic satellite internet plan. The initiative—called Starlink—is the brainchild of the Tesla and SpaceX founder, who has been on a mission to connect every part of the world with reliable, low-cost internet.
BERLIN – Germany could become the first major country to subsidise the use of satellite internet services for consumers. B. Starlink, which was proposed by Elon Musk. The German government has said it plans to provide subsidies of about 500 euros, or the equivalent of $610 per household, for the purchase of equipment needed to access satellite broadband and other high-speed wireless Internet services. Users must pay for their use. According to the minister responsible, the programme could generate a total of EUR 100 million and could be launched in a few weeks’ time. Broadband access in Germany is limited outside the major cities, and sometimes within them, due to the low penetration of fibre compared to other European countries. Germany is often behind less developed countries in international rankings. According to the Global Speedtest Index, Germany ranked 35th in April, behind Panama and Poland. SpaceX’s new Starlink satellite internet service is being touted as a revolutionary solution to rural internet. The WSJ spent time with some beta testers in a very remote area of Washington state to see if this is really the solution to the global broadband shortage. Illustration photo: Laura Kammermann Musk’s Starlink was one of the first market leaders to offer high-speed internet services sent directly to users on Earth from one of its more than 1,500 satellites. Starlink currently offers its services in Germany and claims to have broad coverage by the end of 2021. Starlink offers internet speeds of around 100 megabits per second, compared to around 10 Mbit/s in some rural areas of Germany. The service costs 99 euros a month in Germany, which is significantly more than what ISPs typically charge for wired broadband in that country. Tests conducted by Starlink in the United States have shown that the quality of communication depends on weather conditions and requires a clear line of sight to the satellites. The service is still in beta testing. Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure of the Federal Republic of Germany, Andreas Scheuer, who met with Mr Musk in Berlin last month, said about 200,000 households in rural areas with inadequate broadband infrastructure could receive a voucher to cover the one-off cost of connecting to the wireless internet. Scheuer told reporters that these households will have overnight access to high-speed Internet, which he described as a quick and unbureaucratic process. A spokeswoman for Mr. Scheuer said details of the federal grant program, including the total budget and the number of eligible families, were still being discussed with officials in 16 states.
Andreas Scheuer, Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said the pandemic had exposed Germany’s weaknesses in internet access.
Photo: Bernd von Jürchenka/Zuma Press The grants will be available not only to Starlink customers, but to any wireless broadband internet offering, but not to mobile internet such as 5G services, the Department for Transport said. Starlink’s competitors such as Viasat Inc, GlobalTT and skyDSL Global GmbH are already providing satellite Internet services in Germany or will launch them in the near future. Users of fixed wireless broadband delivered to their homes by microwave base station transmitters can obtain vouchers of up to EUR 10 000 to cover installation costs. Scheuer said the pandemic has drawn attention to the lack of Internet access in Germany. There are homes in very remote areas that even now have very slow internet….. That has a very negative effect, especially now that it involves home offices or homeschooling, Scheuer said in a statement Tuesday. That is why I want to launch a voucher programme that will give the households concerned the prospect of decent Internet access in the short term. The equipment needed to use the Starlink service consists of a small satellite dish, a Wi-Fi router, a power supply, cables and a mounting bracket, which the company offers for 499 euros, including 59 euros shipping. The company says it has 10,000 active users worldwide and more than 500,000 have expressed interest. Competing companies and some space experts have expressed concern that Starlink, which plans to launch 12,000 more satellites, could endanger space traffic and the environment. Deutsche Telekom AG said it was in talks with Starlink about a possible partnership. I think it’s a good technology to reach people who didn’t have access to this infrastructure before, the CEO said. Timothy Hettges said at a conference earlier this year. Write to Bojan Panczewski at [email protected]. Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8