Starlink: How the company kept Ukraine online

Communication is essential in times of war, which is why network infrastructures have been targeted quickly. Nevertheless, thanks to the responsiveness of Starlink, the country was able to stay connected.

The relationship between SpaceX and Ukraine does not date from the start of the war. Indeed, the Ukrainian government was interested in Elon Musk’s satellite internet solution to bring broadband to remote countryside several months before the invasion.

Two days after the invasion of Russia, Mykhailo Fedorov applied to Starlink terminals. Ten hours later, Elon Musk confirmed the activation of his network in Ukraine and it took another 48 hours to see the first Starlink packages sent thanks to the joint efforts of SpaceX and the American government.

An essential network for the communication of the country

On March 29, 2022, Ukrainian forces arrived in Irpin, northwest of kyiv, and found a traumatized population unable to inform their relatives of their state of health after the destruction of the city’s 24 relay antennas.

On March 31, a terminal is brought to the site, an antenna mounted on a mobile motorized base and everything is powered by a generator. As a result, the city is online again and residents rush to their phones to let loved ones know they are safe and sound.

A similar scenario repeated itself on April 2 in Borodyanka and throughout the country. Despite the significant damage to infrastructure, many Ukrainians still have internet access thanks to Starlink, which reportedly has no less than 150,000 daily users in the country.

A life-size test

For the company Starlink, this situation allowed it to test and improve its service in the context of a major event where communications are undermined. Although this is a war, this valuable data may also be useful in the event of a major disaster.

For example, the company has updated its firmware to allow terminals to be powered using a car’s cigarette lighter sockets. SpaceX was also able to show its responsiveness by quickly escaping Russian jamming, a performance hailed by the Pentagon’s director of war.

Be that as it may, the satellite network has shown its effectiveness in allowing users free and reliable internet access despite a difficult context. However, this could be done thanks to the authorizations of Ukraine to use certain wavebands (unlike France which prohibited it).

Given the network’s ability to overcome censorship imposed by governments, it is hard to imagine a country like China or Ethiopia (which suffered many cuts due to the civil war, but which is of no interest to United States) accommodate such a system.

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Starlink: How the company kept Ukraine online

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