In the first part of this series, we discussed two ways that SpaceX’s new satellite internet service might revolutionize the world we live in today — by providing internet access for much of the world’s population that does not already have it and by creating a point of tension and potential conflict in nations that currently restrict information accessibility for their citizens.
But one other key way in which Starlink is poised to reshape the modern era is by enabling people around the world to live more nomadic lives — free from the tethers of homes and buildings that have up to this point been required for reliable connectivity with the world.
Remote Work Is Growing in Popularity, and Starlink Would Provide More Freedom
Accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, remote work is growing rapidly in popularity. Experts predict that the subsiding of the COVID-19 crisis will not slow the transition to telecommuting and work-from-home practices. In fact, it is estimated that by 2025 roughly 70% of workers in modernized nations will be working remotely.
Many people love to travel and would love to do so more often than they currently do. And in a remote work job, workers could conceivably be anywhere in the world at any time. They could still be “on the job” and productive so long as they have access to the internet.
But therein lies the problem. Internet access isn’t always a guarantee in some countries. Even when someone travels through well-developed countries like the United States, mobile internet service coverage can be spotty. And when one stays at a hotel or inn, it’s sometimes iffy as to how well the internet service will be working — if it is working at all.
This lack of reliability around internet infrastructure makes it difficult for remote workers to gamble on taking a trip or going somewhere. They don’t know whether they’ll be able to get their work done when they arrive, and it’s usually not worth the chance of losing one’s job by not showing up during work hours.
But with Starlink, those concerns about remote work could be largely abated. If workers were able to take their transceiver with them from location to location — say, by car — then they could rest easy knowing they’d have reliable internet anywhere they go.
Starlink Could Also Be Used by Boaters Who Need Reliable Internet Service
The same need for reliable internet service is true for boaters. One of the biggest challenges with traveling anywhere by boat is a lack of internet service once the boat loses line of sight with the shoreline. Sure, large cruise ships have their own internet infrastructure for guests, but even those services are sometimes sketchy and unreliable. And smaller boats usually don’t have such equipment — it is far too expensive.
In fact, if you had your own boat and you wanted internet at sea, the only option up to this point has been a satellite phone/internet package through a company like Iridium. These services are notoriously expensive as they charge by usage through data packets or minutes.
Even average internet use — checking emails, browsing and streaming video content — could result in thousands and thousands of dollars in fees each month. Suffice to say it’s just not viable.
But with Starlink, you could mount your transceiver on your boat and have reliable and relatively cheap internet anywhere you go. You could be fishing off the New Jersey shore, floating in the Caribbean or sailing across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the nearest land mass. It wouldn’t matter. You’d always be connected.
Starlink Could Be Used to Enable a New, Nomadic Lifestyle
So for many people who might have the classic wanderlust but are handcuffed to their desks at home, Starlink might enable a new kind of lifestyle where you could travel as much as your heart desires (and your bank account allows). Whether it be by car, RV, boat or any other means, the world would be at your fingertips.
Even bus and air travel would be doable as Starlink’s transceiver is only about the size of a pizza box. As long as you could stow it away, you’d be all set.
And of course, your destination wouldn’t matter. You could literally go anywhere. As long as you could put your transceiver outside somewhere with line of sight to the sky, you’re good to go. Work schedules and internet connectivity would no longer be an obstacle to seeing the world.
Starlink May Effect Massive Changes, But It Still Has a Long Way to Go
All that said, Starlink is really in a position to effect massive changes on the world. But it still has a long way to go. Roughly 11,000 more satellites are planned for launch, which should bolster the network enough so that millions of people from around the world can all use it simultaneously without congestion or overload.
Of course, Starlink isn’t the only company vying to capitalize on outer space for consumer telecom purposes. Other competitors such as Viasat, OneWeb, Hughes Network Systems and even Boeing are actively trying to lock in rights of use for different orbital altitudes in order to one day offer services comparable to Starlink’s.
And it’s no wonder. Space telecom is expected to quickly outpace ground-based offerings and become a multi-trillion-dollar market in the long run. This is without a doubt the way the future is heading. The only question that remains is how fast these revolutions — in space and here on the ground — will occur.