Starlink to provide broadband in the UK’s remotest areas despite slowdowns

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Elon Musk’s Starlink will be used to provide internet access to some of the UK’s most remote homes and businesses, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said.

The Starlink service works by beaming down supposedly broadband-speed internet signal using a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth.

A trial using the service launched today to test the speed of the service in more than a dozen ‘very hard to reach’ locations.

These are amongst the one per cent of the hardest sites in the UK to upgrade via expensive physical cables in more extreme locations such as mountainous areas or small islands.

A 12th-century abbey in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, a scout camping site in Snowdonia, a Lake District mountain rescue base and other remote premises will have equipment installed that allows them receive the service, potentially giving them broadband up to ten times faster than is currently available to them.

Following the trials, the government will consider the viability of using satellite technology to connect very hard to reach homes and businesses across the UK.

According to recent findings from Speedtest provider Ookla, speeds on SpaceX's Starlink satellite network have slowed again this quarter across the US as demand for the service ramps up.

The sluggish speeds are one reason why the FCC recently decided to withdraw almost $1bn in government subsidies from the service.

In its latest report, Ookla found that Starlink's download speeds dropped 14 per cent in Canada and 17 per cent in the US from the second to the third quarter of 2022 despite speeds offered by fixed internet service providers rising by 8 per cent in the US and Canada.

Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “High-speed broadband beamed to earth from space could be the answer to the connectivity issues suffered by people in premises stuck in the digital slow lane.

“Ensuring everyone can get a quality internet connection is crucial to our levelling up plans and these trials aim to find a solution to the prohibitively high cost of rolling out cables to far-flung locations.

“We are also today kicking off plans for our biggest broadband build to date as we announce another £100 million is being spent as part of our Project Gigabit programme.”

The £108 million contract, awarded to Northern Ireland-based provider Fibrus, will connect up to 60,000 rural homes and businesses in Cumbria which might have otherwise missed out on upgrades to faster gigabit speeds.

The contract is the latest in a flurry of deals signed under Project Gigabit in recent weeks to improve connectivity in the north of England.

DCMS said that around 72 per cent of the UK can now access gigabit connections, up from 6 per cent in early 2019.

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