Can Elon Musk’s Starlink Keep Ukraine Online?
Since the Russian invasion began, Ukrainians have shared recipes for making Molotov cocktails and instructions for driving abandoned troop carriers.
They’ve used encrypted apps to coordinate tactics and to ask Russians to stand up to their government, who in turn have staged protests in Moscow and other cities.
Though it may end up losing on the battlefield, Ukraine has been able to show the world the brutality and folly of the Russian attack, which is only possible because everyday citizens have retained access to the internet.
But maybe not for long: In areas with the heaviest fighting, internet outages are becoming common, and since information is power on the battlefield, there’s a danger that Russia will find a way to knock the country fully offline.
This is why Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation tweeted a plea to Elon Musk, “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.”
“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine.” Musk tweeted back later that day, collapsing a regulatory process that can take months or years into under 280 characters.
Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022
Starlink, which has been up and running since 2021, is a global satellite internet provider owned by Musk’s company SpaceX, which aims to provide low latency, high-speed internet to areas that are less densely populated and where fast reliable internet may be lacking.
The first obstacle is that Ukrainians can’t just connect directly to Starlink satellites: First, they need ground terminals.
“…terminals en route,” was how Musk finished his tweet, and less than 48 hours later, Fedorov replied with a picture showing a truckload of them in Ukraine, “Starlink — here. Thanks, @elonmusk”
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 28, 2022
Those terminals will need to be brought into cities under siege and connected to wi-fi, which will allow Ukrainians to connect their devices. That presents a challenge in the middle of a war.
And if terminals lose power, they’ll need batteries or generators to stay online.
Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine,
Article from Reason.com