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Starlink snag forces users to build ‘dumb gear’ to access Elon Musk’s space internet

Elon Musk’s Space Internet Starlink runs into an unusual adversary: ​​the trees.

SpaceX satellite internet service began beta testing in June 2020 for high-latitude areas such as Seattle, but some users have experienced issues.

“We want to get Starlink, but the sky above our house is almost completely covered with trees over 10 meters high,” one user posted on the r / Starlink subreddit. “Is it possible to get Starlink to work in our area or are we just out of luck?”

Another expressed similar issues, asking for advice on using brackets to get the Starlink antenna six to 10 feet higher to get the signal over nearby trees, but potential masts “don’t seem to accommodate the antenna.” A beta tester managed to get over trees via a tripod mounted on top of their roof, which they described as a “Silly machine”.

In order to set up a Starlink internet connection, users need a satellite dish of £ 439 and pay a monthly fee of £ 84, but also need a direct line of sight between the antenna and the satellite, as well as a 100 degree cone with a minimum elevation degree around the center of the dish.

This means that trees, nearby buildings, and other obstructions are a big challenge – one user setting up their dish nearly five meters above its chimney.

“If you could see the connection between a Starlink satellite and your Starlink, it would look like a single beam between the two objects. As the satellite moves, so does the beam. The zone in which this beam travels is the “field of vision” “, explains the Starlink website.

“Some obstructions are worse than others. Obstacles low in the sky will cause more outages, as the satellites are more frequently in this area of ​​the sky. The best advice we can give you is to install your Starlink at the highest altitude possible, where it is possible to do so safely, with a clear view of the sky. Starlink also notes that “a single tree” can interrupt service to users.


As first reviews to have highlighted, Starlink provides an app to help users check for “obstructions”, but the phone must be at knee height to work – unlike the high altitude which will provide users with the best internet service. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from The independent before the time of publication.

Starlink, a service that remains in beta and is expected to improve with the launch of more satellites, is not designed for urban environments due to interference from buildings; but in rural areas, trees are likely to remain a “bigger problem,” said Mark Jackson, website editor for UK internet service provider ISPreview. The independent.

“Some people may be able to get around this by professionally mounting the dish higher on their roof, although there have also been questions about the durability of the kit in high winds – if you are mounting it high up you will have to maybe take it. down for a storm [which is] not ideal or safe.

“Only time will tell if they can really solve all of these problems, but they have a good chance of being able to overcome them.” A bigger challenge will be making the whole thing profitable, while trying not to completely destroy observational science (astronomy) in the process.

Starlink satellites currently in orbit disrupted astronomical observations

(Victoria Girgis / Lowell Observatory)

However, for many users, especially in the United States, Starlink will remain a compelling alternative to traditional internet providers due to long-standing issues with service and competition.

Telephone companies originally used existing cables to provide Internet service and were required by law to lease cables from competitors; but in 1996 the Telecommunications Act made it easier to consolidate cable companies, and in 2005 this rental requirement was removed. This meant that they were “essentially swapping areas so as not to be in competition”, according to Christopher Ali, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

Along with policy issues, there are population issues related to the Internet experience in the United States.

“I wouldn’t characterize the American internet as much as I would call it inconsistent,” said Jamie Steven, chief innovation officer at the creator of Speedtest Ookla. And while cities and populated areas have “wide access,” this is lacking in rural and remote areas.

Astronomers – Satellite Pollution


“The lower population density in the United States is a major reason, especially in the West. It can be very expensive to operate fiber optic networks for communities of only a few hundred people. New satellite options such as Starlink provide a desirable alternative to aging copper-based connectivity (DSL and cable) in these communities, ”Steven said. The independent.

“I am a Starlink beta customer and live in a heavily forested rural area. I had a few minor issues with obstructions caused by the very tall trees in my yard, but overall the service is a significant and welcome improvement over the unreliable DSL service I had before. “

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