Starlink will transfer data close to the speed of light without ground stations, says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

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Musk noted that there will be no requirement for ground stations everywhere which helps Starlink broadband achieve data transfer close to the speed of light, possibly even faster.

(Picture: Starlink)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has noted that Starlink can achieve data transfer close to the speed of light, possibly even faster.
  • Musk said that the Starlink satellites launching in the next 4 to 6 months will have inter-satellite laser links, so no local downlink will be required.
  • Earlier this month, Musk hinted that Starlink satellite broadband service could soon come to India.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a recent tweet has said that in the case of satellite-broadband, Starlink, there will be no need for ground stations everywhere. This will help the service achieve data transfer close to the speed of light, possibly even faster. Musk was replying to a Twitter user and internet rocket scientist Scott Manley, who highlighted the requirement of downlink stations in broadband services to which Musk replied saying that the Starlink satellites launching in the next 4 to 6 months will have inter-satellite laser links, so no local downlink will be required.

Manley then asked if there was any real difference beyond the lasers, and if they need more onboard processing for packet routing or if they were built with sufficient capacity prior to the addition of laser interlinks.

Musk replied, “Processing is not an issue. Laser links alleviate ground station constraints, so data can go from say Sydney to London through space, which is ~40% faster speed of light than fiber & shorter path. Also, no need for ground stations everywhere. Arctic will have great bandwidth!”

But does data transfer take place at the speed of light? Somewhat. The speed of light is 3,00,000 km/s. Data is carried by infra-red light as that is the wavelength used over long-distance optic fiber which travels around 2,00,000 km/sec which is the speed of light through glass. Users will have to take in consideration the internet traffic and the possibility of data passing through supporting network components such as network routers and optical transceivers, which tend to slow down the average speed.

Musk’s Starlink has promised to deliver broadband internet service in areas with little to no network. Starlink on its website explains that Starlink satellite will reduce latency to an extent that it will achieve speeds typically not possible with traditional satellite internet.” “Latency is the time it takes to send data from one point to the next. When satellites are far from Earth, latency is high, resulting in poor performance for activities like video calls and online gaming,” Starlink notes. However, Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to the Earth than traditional satellites. Earlier this month, Musk hinted that Starlink satellite broadband service could soon come to India and that the company was waiting for regulatory approval.

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