Elon Musk’s satellite broadband operator Starlink has begun taking orders, with the service now open to Irish customers.
The broadband works using ‘low orbit’ satellites being launched by Mr Musk’s SpaceX company.
It is promising speeds of between 50Mbs and 140Mbs, but warns of “brief periods of no connectivity at all”.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the company says.
The service costs €99 per month plus a €499 charge for the required satellite dish and a €61 delivery fee.
It is unlikely to appeal to the majority of Irish broadband customers, who receive either fibre or cable broadband with faster speeds for half the price.
However, Government figures suggest that there are at least 400,000 rural Irish homes that currently cannot get even minimal high-speed broadband services of 30Mbs. These homes are to be connected to taxpayer-funded high-speed fibre over the next five years, but half will not see availability for at least another two years.
“Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge,” the company says.
“Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite internet.”
The company says that it will cover Irish homes in “mid to late 2021”.
Last month, a survey of 1,000 people from Irish regulator Comreg showed a quarter of Irish people say their broadband has become worse since the start of the pandemic.
The Comreg figures also show that three-quarters of us now rely on home broadband far more than before the pandemic started, with families particularly dependent on it to get through an ordinary day.
But 13pc of Irish home broadband connections aren’t adequate for home working, Comreg says. The situation is particularly bad for those with mobile broadband services, where one in four say the connection isn’t good enough to use for home working.
Comreg’s survey says that just under three in five of us are working from home to some degree. Over 40pc now need broadband to videoconference with work colleagues, while three in five use it to watch Netflix, Disney+ or other online video streaming services.
Almost 60pc would be willing to spend more on broadband to get a better service, the survey claimed, especially for households with children.