Satellite-based Internet may not be a new phenomenon in Indonesia, since increasing number of providers now offer workable Internet solution for rural areas through communication satellites. In 2021, however, the skies above us will open up to a fresh competitor in the satellite Internet space as Elon Musk’s Starlink service becomes available to Indonesians.
What is Starlink?
- It’s Elon Musk’s new satellite Internet service, launched by private aerospace company SpaceX
- Broadband is provided from low-earth-orbit satellite “chains” or constellations
- By having a lot of satellites closer to the Earth than usual, almost anywhere could access high-speed Internet
Starlink is SpaceX’s low-earth-orbit satellite constellation, first prototyped in 2018 and made available to North American consumers in late 2020. SpaceX’s plan is to have thousands of low-earth satellites forming a global cluster capable of delivering Internet services to just about any spot on the planet.
The advantage of low-earth orbits is that there’s less transmission space – quite literally – between the Starlink cluster and other competing satellite services, which should lead to theoretically faster services.
Time lapse taken of a Starlink satellite constellation (Getty)
If they’re low-earth satellites, does that mean I can see them?
With the right equipment, (and sometimes with the naked eye), you can – although they’re rapidly moving satellites. They circle the globe every 90 minutes, so you can’t really afford to blink much. There’s already a service tracking the likely visibility of Starlink’s satellites, so grab that telescope and get spotting!
Example of satellite chain locations across Indonesia. Images taken from findstarlink.com, with graphics and legend overlaid for emphasis.
When can I get a Starlink service in Indonesia?
Starlink’s local website went live recently, with service availability promised in 2022 for most addresses we’ve tested with.
Starlink is offering its services on a “first come, first served” basis, but there’s no real indication as to what that really means in terms of available service numbers or expected customer loads.
How much will Starlink cost in Indonesia?
Starlink’s indicative pricing at launch is for a single US$99 (around IDR1,400,000) a month plan with no stated data caps.
However, that’s not all you’ll pay as the receiver equipment also carries a US$499 (around IDR7,000,000) fee plus shipping. It’s worth noting that Starlink is taking pre-orders now for that 2022 availability window, but you do have to pay the hardware and shipping fee upfront if you are selected as a Starlink customer.
How fast will Starlink be in Indonesia?
Starlink is advertising that its services will be capable of speeds from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations. However, it also notes that there “will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all”. Hopefully, that’s a minimising problem as Starlink increases its satellite load over time.
However, bear in mind that like any wireless technology, there’s a variety of factors that can affect your achievable speeds on the network, both environmental and in terms of network load. That will be part of why Starlink isn’t offering universal service. Like a busy road, if it has too many customers trying to access its services at once, everyone’s service could slow to a crawl.
How does Starlink compare to 5G networks?
They’re both wireless, but the state of play for most consumers if you’re in the position to weigh 5G up against Starlink doesn’t really favour Starlink in any way at all.
If you’re looking at fixed home 5G home broadband, you can score cheaper plans with much better latency and potentially higher data rates too, although again this is network dependent. There are upfront modem costs, but they’re nowhere near as high as Starlink’s fees.
If you’re looking at mobile 5G, device costs are higher but it’s still lower than Starlink. Most plans do have data caps, but also “endless data”, albeit speed shaped if you do go over quota.
The catch here is coverage areas. While we will see a rapid expansion in 5G availability in Indonesia over the next years, it will still be heavily concentrated on high population areas across all three 5G networks.
Starlink can – in theory – deliver a service to any open-air spot across Indonesia. You won’t get much of a 5G signal in rural areas but (presuming you could provide power) you could get a Starlink signal and service.