Starlink could be a ‘game changer’ for remote scientists and businesses in Kimberley

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.

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.

Three women examine a small animal in the remote jungle
AWC ecologists work with rangers in some of the remotest areas of the Kimberley where Internet access is limited.(Supplied: AWC/Naomi Blundell)

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.”

A light plane parked next to a ute in a far country
AWC has staff operating in the Kimberley regions where planes are needed to deliver supplies and internet access is limited.(ABC News: Erin Park)

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.

Starlink platter pictured next to a janitor's tree.
Mr. Stevenson started using Starlink even though it was not officially rolled out to Kimberley residents.(Supplied: John Stephenson)

“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.”

Brown and white cattle pass through dusty yards
Stevenson’s company also operates a terminal, where workers can use Starlink.(ABC Kimberly: Hilary Smil)

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

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