A protection organization is set to trial Elon Musk’s new satellite internet service, which could provide connectivity to scientists in normally isolated areas of the Kimberley.
the main points:
- Remote worker piloting Starlink between Derby and Broome despite not being rolled out in the area
- Scientists hope to use the service to transmit data and keep in touch at remote sites
- Consumer advocacy says it will provide more competition, but personal support is needed for consumers
Starlink is a constellation of low-orbit satellites, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, that aims to provide internet to people around the world.
The satellites, which often look like trains of lights in the night sky, have been seen over parts of Australia, including the Kimberley, in recent months.
Internet service is not expected to be available in northwest Washington until early next year.
Scientists use it in the field
The Australian Wildlife Conservation Authority (AWC), which manages swathes of land in the Kimberley, is looking into using Starlink for scientists in the field.
AWC’s chief information technology officer, Damien Kerr, said it can provide real-time communication with employees who are collecting data about species important in the area.
“If we can get a mobile connection to the Internet, it will improve our ability to store, collect and report that data,” Kerr said.
“We hope that this type of connection, along with existing NBN services, which have served us well over the years, will help support our ecologists in this field.”
Mr Kerr said there were risks involved for AWC staff working in remote areas of the Kimberley where the closest aid was far away.
“You put a lot of trust in a trading company and things happen with the satellites,” he said. “They’re having problems here and there.”
“We will not put ourselves in a position to rely on,” he added [Starlink] Until we get confirmation on consistency and reliability.”
Try Starlink in Kimberley
The remote meat operator, John Stephenson (not his real name), told ABC he was trying out Starlink in an area of Kimberley with limited internet.
“I work for a remote company in the middle between Broome and Derby – no land line, nothing,” he said.
“So when I started following Starlink, over 12 months ago, I thought this could really change the rules of the game in how we do our business.”
The company relies on Telstra’s Skymuster internet satellite because there is no telephone reception in the area, but Mr Stevenson said it “doesn’t cut the mustard”.
“We have pastoral properties, so there are influences on them and then the main offices that are in Perth, so [Starlink] It enables us to better communicate with our managers.”
But Stevenson said, while Starlink was running, it stopped intermittently because it was connected from one satellite passing by another.
“So it’s kind of a hit and miss,” he said, “but given that it wasn’t brought up here… I think that’s pretty good.”
Provides more competition
Andrew Williams, chief executive of the Australian Telecoms Consumer Action Network, said the new internet service would provide an alternative in the market for remote users.
“This will provide more choice and optimal flexibility for consumers. And also more price competitiveness because the systems and services are not cheap,” he said.
But Mr Williams said a physical presence in Australia would be “helpful” because consumers need to be able to address technical issues with the service.
“If you don’t have a connection, online retrieval and online service are practically impossible. So having someone to talk to definitely makes a big difference,” he said.