How Starlink internet can benefit Bangladesh
The government has decided to award a licence to Starlink, operated by Elon Musk's aerospace company SpaceX. But what is the hype around Starlink and how may it impact communications in Bangladesh? Let's take a look.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a SpaceX operated satellite constellation—a group of artificial satellites-–that provides broadband internet connections. Starlink aims for a global high speed internet coverage using a network of thousands of satellites working above 550 kilometres the Earth's surface also known as the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). It is popular around the world for providing internet services to remote areas. Currently, Starlink operates in 60 countries.
Starlink has seen rapid growth after launching its first set of satellites back in 2019. With over 2 million active customers, it has made a great impact on the consumer satellite market. Starlink satellites operate at a lower altitude than the traditional geostationary satellites. Operating at the Lower Earth Orbit region also helps with Starlink's capacity to launch more satellites which has resulted in Starlink having the most number of active satellites in space.
In recent times, Musk's Starlink has become a hot topic in geopolitics. Israeli authorities have said Starlink satellite units can be established in the Gaza Strip only with their approval. Starlink also played a vital role in the Russia-Ukraine war, providing seamless communication channels for the stakeholders.
What Starlink means for Bangladesh
For areas with limited or no access to traditional internet infrastructure, Starlink offers a compelling solution. Unlike terrestrial networks reliant on cables and towers, Starlink requires only a small satellite dish and a clear view of the sky to connect users to the vast online world. This opens up opportunities for education, healthcare, and economic development in remote areas.
Its resilience to weather disruptions, power outages, and physical damage could ensure that critical communication channels remain operational, facilitating essential services and emergency response efforts.
Its ability to reach remote villages and islands can empower communities with access to online education, e-commerce platforms, and telemedicine services. This can bridge the digital divide, drive economic growth, and improve overall quality of life for many Bangladeshis.
Incorporating Starlink could also create competition in the internet business in Bangladesh. However, the cost of Starlink's internet connection (USD 120 per month with initial cost of USD 599 for setup) is relatively higher than the existing local connections of Bangladesh.
When asked about Starlink's internet service, Emdadul Hoque, president of Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) said, "We welcome any new technology but we need to assess the current situation first. We have covered most of Bangladesh with our broadband connections. So, we would urge the government to consult with the local investors about the pros and cons of Starlink before making final decisions as there are a lot of factors related including security issues".
Starlink's satellite internet technology marks a significant shift in global internet access. By connecting the remote and ensuring resilience in times of disaster, it opens new doors for communities across the globe. For Bangladesh, Starlink presents a compelling opportunity to bridge the digital divide and unlock its full potential. However, careful consideration of affordability, digital literacy, environmental concerns, and regulatory frameworks is crucial to ensure its responsible and equitable adoption.