Elon Musk’s satellite broadband is being tested in west Cork

26 May 2021

Image: © rottenman/Stock.adobe.com

A trial kit for Starlink has arrived in the ‘broadband dead-zone’ of Knockawaddra.

Residents of Knockawaddra in west Cork are trialling the new satellite broadband system from tech billionaire Elon Musk.

It is part of the Starlink project being rolled out by Musk’s SpaceX, which is creating a network of satellites for a global broadband system.

Earlier this month, local businesswomen Emma Fitzpatrick and Lesley Cox said SpaceX had offered them a trial of the Starlink broadband programme after they appealed to the company.

They described their community as a “broadband dead-zone” and said people living in the area are without sufficient broadband access for remote working, online learning and running businesses.

The trial kit from SpaceX has now arrived in Knockawaddra, and Fitzpatrick and Cox will test the Starlink broadband system over a period of one month.

“We are hopeful that Starlink will solve our broadband problem in the short-term,” said Fitzpatrick.

“In the longer-term, it is crucial that National Broadband Ireland expedite the roll-out of fibre in our area. Rural communities are being failed by Government on access to broadband.”

National Broadband Ireland is currently rolling out high-speed fibre in rural areas under the Government’s National Broadband Plan.

The first premises in Ireland was connected to the network at the start of this year. The plan is to connect more than 1.1m people in the coming years across 544,000 homes, businesses, farms and schools where commercial operators do not currently provide high-speed connectivity.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is continuing to launch satellites for the Starlink constellation. The aim is to bring high-speed, low-latency broadband to people across the world, particularly in rural areas, and the service is currently in beta testing.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the Black Valley in Co Kerry would also be a pilot location for the new global broadband system.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic