The StarLink Dilemma

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 4 2021
Tech Talk The StarLink Dilemma

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage

Change is in the air, and it’s coming from outer space.

When Elon Musk created SpaceX and shared his ambition of putting a man on Mars, people had a hard time believing it. One of the biggest issues he faced at that time was to secure sufficient funds to make it happen. However, that all changed as SpaceX proved its mettle, revolutionising the aerospace engineering industry, making space flights not only cheaper, but also safer, with less risk of causing damage and destruction.

Now a global competitor in the space race, SpaceX has proven that it aims big and can achieve it. However, procuring sufficient funds to conduct billions of dollars worth of research isn’t cheap, which has been a challenge for the company to continue pushing boundaries. However, that may not be as big of a problem for long, thanks to his latest enterprise.

Starlink

If you didn’t know already, StarLink is one of Musk’s latest enterprises, aiming to connect the world through thousands of low-orbiting satellites that will provide internet access to anyone, anywhere. There is a range of benefits that StarLink has over traditional broadband, which give it a massive competitive edge. And now that it’s opening up operations in India (much to India’s existing telecom operators’ dismay). This has also opened up opportunities for Sri Lanka, with news of Sri Lankan delegates already in discussion with Starlink already making news.

If Starlink were to be adopted in Sri Lanka, it would open up a host of wide benefits for local infrastructure in terms of telecommunications, possibly kickstarting Sri Lanka’s move to becoming a digital nation. However, it’s all up in the air for now if this is mere clickbait news or whether there is an actual future in these discussions.

Many pros

One of the biggest advantages that would make Sri Lanka’s adoption of Starlink a good idea is the fact that it is a satellite-based telecom provider. Unlike traditional broadband and cellular connectivity solutions such as 5G and 4G, there is no need to develop infrastructures such as laying fibre optic lines or building signal towers. With internet connectivity beamed down from the satellite above, building receiver units is all that’s needed to establish high-speed internet in even the most rural of regions.

With the ability to connect to the internet anywhere no longer an issue, a plethora of opportunities begins to open up in rural economies. Of course, there is the concern if families can afford digital devices and if they have proper electricity. However, in the case that there is, many employees could simply work from home, in their villages instead of having to come all the way out to Colombo. New business opportunities will open up and rural economies will have more cash flow than ever before.

It also means that information will be transmitted faster and more effectively, helping to make rural residents become more informed and able to learn from online resources (if proper guidance is provided to help protect themselves from the dark side of the internet).

Starlink has the potential to disrupt Sri Lanka’s telecommunications market in a way that few other services have ever been able to. This leads to more competition which is good for the consumer. We have the opportunity to use faster, more reliable internet, anywhere, anytime.

Some cause for concern

Of course, with all the pros comes a number of cons as well. One of the biggest on the list is the security concern. Starlink above Sri Lanka has the potential to be used as a tool for surveillance by interested states. But then again, the same can be said about telecommunications infrastructure providers from the opposite side of the world as well, such as Huawei and its 4G services.

Needless to say, considerable attention needs to be given before a verdict should be given regarding Starlink in Sri Lanka (that is of course, if it ever is going to happen).

The need continues

Starlink or not, the need for reliable, fast, and affordable internet throughout Sri Lanka is only going to increase as the post-COVID-19 era continues. Avoiding so would only limit the country’s capacity to earn and establish growing rural economies that no longer require people to travel long distances in search of greener pastures in the big city, and Starlink provides the opportunity to make that happen a lot faster than it would at the current pace.

Needless to say, lack of internet is far from the only concern in a country where children perish without a proper bridge to cross over bodies of water. However, it is a concern that is growing and will be an impact on Sri Lanka’s growth into the digital age.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 4 2021

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