SpaceX’s renowned Starlink Internet Service Provider, utilising a multitude of compact satellites stationed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), is offering a lightning-fast broadband service and swift latency periods to rural homeowners at a hefty discount, according to the firm.

According to their Twitter account, Starlink has unveiled a new promotion for those dwelling in rural areas of the UK.

This offer significantly cuts the one-time hardware cost by 75%, dropping it from £460 down to £99.

Ordinarily, UK customers would be looking at a monthly fee starting from £75, on top of £460 for the standard home kit (comprising a standard dish, router, and so on) and £20 for delivery as part of the ‘Standard’ Starlink package.

No social tariffs available

This rural package does not include a “social tariff” which is being offered by many ISPs in the UK now, including B4RN which has reportedly some of the fastest internet speeds in Lancashire and Cumbria. That company recently announced a reduced rate of £15 a month for its service package for those struggling with the “cost-of-living crisis”.

This promotional offer is strictly “applicable for residential fixed service” users (in other words, it must be used at the user’s primary residence).

However, this service does not extend beyond the primary residence. It is geo-locked within approximately 15 miles of the home address, according to the information provided.

This package promises unlimited usage, a monthly contract term, quick latency periods ranging from 25-50ms, advertised download speeds of roughly 50-200Mbps, and upload speeds of around 5-15Mbps (though these speeds may vary as the network expands).

However, a recent note from Starlink announced the deal for only a “limited period.”

Starlink’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are positioned about 550-1,000km above the Earth’s surface and, unlike geostationary satellites, travel along their own orbit which differs from traditional internet services by wire.

How rural?

Despite this new offer being seemingly aimed specifically at rural regions, independent tests have confirmed that some users in more urban areas, including Lancaster, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Dunbar in Scotland, are also receiving this discount.

The discount also appears applicable in the different locations with people in different locations around the country suggesting the company is basing its “rural” identifier as addresses that are unable to get 40Mbps VDSL packages from OpenReach.

Gigabit vouchers not part of the deal

The UK government is also offering £210mn worth of vouchers as part of its Gigabit Voucher scheme, which enables homes in rural and remote areas to connect to fibre internet broadband, by select retailers.

“Vouchers worth up to £4,500 for homes and businesses help to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband to people’s doorsteps,” the website states, however Starlink due to the nature of its setup is not included in the rollout of the programme.

It remains to be seen if the government will enter into talks with Starlink on expanding the programme to the most remote areas including remote homes and islands.

In 2022 as part of a greater push to help more people get connected the UK government granted a contract to Northern Ireland-based Fibrus to connect remote areas of Cumbria as part of the broader push.

A likely prompt for this offer comes on the back of a pilot launched in December 2022 that is assessing the speed and reliability of connections to more than a dozen “very hard to reach” locations.

Such areas are too difficult to upgrade via physical cables and make up less than 1% of sites in the UK, Defra said.

Locations on the trial include parts of the North Yorkshire Moors, Snowdonia and the Lake District.

Future Competition on horizon

Starlink is also set to have further competition with Amazon’s Project Kuiper set to launch in the near future as well as a project commissioned by the European Union to counter the US encroachment on internet service providers.

Moreover, The European Union‘s Council officially greenlit a novel low-Earth orbit (LEO) communication satellite initiative, IRIS² in March 2023.

The project, costing €6 billion, spans the period from 2023 to 2027. It is expected to start providing preliminary services from the upcoming year, with full operational capability slated for three years later.

This was the initial blueprint over a year ago when the plan was first proposed. However, recent statements from the EU indicate that the Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite constellation, or IRIS², is scheduled to offer ultra-fast, low latency, and highly secure communication services by 2027. Whether this change in language indicates a shift in expectations is unclear; EU satellite programs have experienced delays in the past.

The Council passed the regulation, which was initially put forward by the European Commission in February 2022.

The Commission emphasized the necessity for secure, space-based connectivity under EU control at a time when low-earth-orbit satellite systems were becoming a key discussion point. Brussels, feeling left out, was ready to invest substantially to address this issue.

The European Commission acknowledged that “several major non-EU government-backed projects with a variety of connectivity strategic objectives are underway,” without specifically identifying any projects. However, their intended targets were well-understood.

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