Elon Musk’s Starlink is set to provide internet service in Bangladesh. But the commercial prospect of this futuristic and idealistic service in the country is not beyond doubt.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is known for his association with many disruptive technologies. Starlink is one of the lesser-known but potentially just as disruptive companies as its other tech companies.
Starlink – a satellite internet service provider – is an Elon Musk venture whose goal is to provide high-speed internet access to nearly everyone in the world through an expanding network of private satellites that circle the Earth in low orbit.
On the order page of Starlink’s official website, it says: “Order now to reserve your Starlink. Starlink plans to expand service in your area in 2023. Availability is subject to regulatory approval. Orders are fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”
The third sentence specifically means that the Starlink service has not yet been approved by the government of Bangladesh.
Starlink claims it is “ideally suited to parts of the world where connectivity has traditionally been a challenge” and “independent of traditional terrestrial infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed internet access to locations where access is not unreliable or completely unavailable”.
There’s plenty to be excited about, just like all of Musk’s other ventures. Starlink looks cutting-edge, futuristic, and idealistic. But, Starlink has its fair share of doubts and criticisms. And now is the best time to face reality.
The Business Standard asked Almas Kabir, former president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (Basis), about the viability of Starlink in Bangladesh.
“The price of $99 per month is certainly high for individual users. There is also a one-time fee of $500-600 upfront for the equipment. Business users will incur a one-time fee of $2,500 and a monthly subscription .charges $500 for speed up to 500 Mbps,” Almas Kabir said.
According to him, satellite internet connectivity is useful in remote areas where local ISP or mobile operator networks are not present. However, a relatively expensive satellite internet service might not be feasible in a densely populated country like Bangladesh, where 99% of the area is covered by a mobile network.
Also, the Bangabandhu-1 satellite can provide similar services, according to Almas Kabir. However, because Starlink uses a network of satellites in lower Earth orbit, the signal delay or latency is significantly reduced.
Overall, Almas Kabir is both skeptical and optimistic about Starlink’s application in Bangladesh. For him, if Starlink is revolutionary, the service is still in beta phase. It provides high-speed Internet connectivity when conditions are optimal, without the hassle of a wired connection. Although the relatively high cost is detrimental to its mass popularity.
He added, “I always believe in using new technology. Turning a blind eye to new technology will only make us less competitive. Therefore, Bangladesh should allow Starlink to be used in its territory. Negotiations with business should be conducted to comply with local guidelines.”
We also spoke to Mustafa Jabbar, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in the Government of Bangladesh, who said, “First of all, Starlink did not ask us for permission to operate their services in Bangladesh. You may have seen the disclaimer on their website. page: ‘subject to regulatory approval’.
Interestingly, they [Starlink] didn’t even contact the regulator. So how can this be approved?”
We asked if Starlink’s application for approval would be accepted. The minister replied that his ministry would consider this based on the national interests of Bangladesh.
“We need to look at exactly why we should let Starlink provide internet service through their satellites,” the minister said, adding, “Starlink is a commercial enterprise. It is one of many satellite internet providers. is probably the best in its class, but not the only one or the only one. We have our own satellite through which we can provide internet.”
We reminded Mustafa Jabbar that in the early 1990s, Bangladesh was about to get free submarine cables. But the government was too scared to accept it, so we missed the boat on the submarine cables. We asked him if Starlink would be revolutionary and a missed opportunity, again, if we decided to miss it?
In response, he said that in 1992 we had the opportunity to join the “SEA-ME-WE 3” optical submarine telecommunications cable. However, the government at the time believed that if it was connected to the submarine cable, national information would be trafficked. It was in fact a serious mistake on the part of this government.
“We got our first submarine cable by joining “SEA-ME-WE 4″ in 2006, and as a result, the country fell behind in the competition by 14 years. However, Starlink does not provide us with any kind of new technology. So if we don’t accept, that doesn’t mean we’re going to suffer.”