Tech

Despite praise from the Telekom boss: Musk’s All-Internet Starlink has a catch

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In 2021, one in five rural households in Germany will not have access to high-speed Internet, i.e. at least 30 megabits per second. According to the provider, streaming a Netflix film in high quality takes around 25 megabytes per second. The largest German Internet provider, Telekom, is aware of this problem and is already investing five billion euros per year in network expansion.

But with the current fiber optic technology, the connection is expensive. One kilometer of cable costs up to 70,000 euros. The relocation is definitely worthwhile for large cities, but the costs are very high, especially in small, remote villages with few connections.

There is also another problem: Conventional technology is usually only modern for a few years and is then replaced by a new generation. While 5G mobile communications are currently being expanded, the next 6G mobile communications generation is already in development. Billions are invested every time to update the networks.

Elon Musk’s company Starlink could step in here, a subsidiary of SpaceX that offers Internet via satellite – soon also in Germany. The offshoot Starlink Germany GmbH, based in Frankfurt, was only founded at the end of 2020, and it has recently become possible to receive initial information on the start of Germany with a German email address: the Internet from space should also be available in Germany by mid-2021, the maximum The number of users is initially limited. The tariff is not cheap: the user has to pay a one-time fee of 499 euros and 59 euros shipping for the hardware – a satellite antenna, cable and router – the monthly costs are then 99 euros.

The idea behind it: data should be sent via satellites in orbit instead of cables and radio masts. In this way, the whole world should be connected to fast Internet, according to Musk’s vision. In the USA, Starlink’s beta test already has 10,000 customers who report speeds of more than 100 Mbit / s in download and 20 Mbit / s in upload – with a delay (latency) of 31 milliseconds.

For Telekom boss Höttges, the satellite internet is a “very serious technology”

Today, however, private users can get the Starlink speeds from Telekom or Vodafone much cheaper and less prone to disruption – can the All-Internet project even become suitable for the masses? The major providers in Germany will probably not tremble at Musk’s offer yet, but Deutsche Telekom is in talks with Starlink, as CEO Timotheus Höttges confirmed in the “Handelsblatt”: “For me, this is a technology to be taken very seriously. I am a great admirer of Elon Musk and his ideas. I think this is a good technology to supply people who have not yet had any infrastructure. “

In recent years, the government has increased the pressure on mobile network operators, and rural areas in particular should be connected to the LTE network almost everywhere by the end of 2021. Can Musk’s satellites ensure that expansion goes faster in the future? In Canada, Starlink cooperated with a small IT company to bring an indigenous province with 3,000 inhabitants to the fast network. After authorities gave clearance, it took just a few weeks in late 2020 to get Starlink internet to Ontario. Now the residents surf there at 130 Mbit / s – previously it was 3 Mbit / s.

A big catch with Starlink is the price

It is questionable whether Starlink will be able to establish itself in large cities. Telefónica Germany boss Markus Haas was skeptical in an interview with the “Handelsblatt”: “There are many exciting ideas. But none of the ideas are suitable for the mass market so far ”.

Because even if all technical problems are solved, there remains a big catch: the high purchase price. For private customers, Starlink will therefore not be a real alternative at the moment. But very much for corporate customers who need a fast Internet that is available anywhere in the world for technologies such as the Internet of Things, autonomous driving or machine communication. “The applications will initially be for commercial customers in the aviation, processing industry or agriculture”, Gundbert Scherf, partner and technology expert at McKinsey, told the “Handelsblatt”.

Starlink would then be in competition with conventional network operators, for whom corporate customers are also very important. In Germany alone, Telekom generated around 6.2 billion euros in sales with business customers in 2019 – almost a third of total sales.

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