The Ukrainian government, the military, NGOs and even civilians are actively equipping themselves with satellite connection kits to communicate. They hail Elon Musk’s service which has multiple advantages.
The appeal has been heard. When Ukrainian Minister for Digital Transformation Mykhail Fedorov requested Starlink satellite connection kits on February 26, Elon Musk reacted immediately by sending truckloads of terminals. Then he also opens the network for free to all users in the warring country.
Since then, new deliveries have taken place at regular intervals, often greeted enthusiastically on Twitter by Fedorov. Neighboring countries such as Poland also ship stocks from terminals to Ukraine.
A new batch of Starlink stations! While Russia is blocking access to the Internet, Ukraine is becoming more open to the whole world. Ukraine is the truth. The truth always wins. Thanks, @elonmuskthe Government of Poland and Orlen. pic.twitter.com/TP0kpn3rPS
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 18, 2022
Thousands of used kits
Currently, there are thousands of kits that would be used in the country, according to the Washington post. The French NGO Télécoms Sans Frontières was also contacted by the Odessa City Hall to equip the city in preparation for the Russian siege. In addition to government or local authorities, civilians use it for work. The military would not be left out. The Schedules revealed that Starlink was connecting the drones of an elite unit responsible for destroying Russian army tanks and trucks.
If satellite technology is so touted, it is for responding to three scenarios. First, there are attacked sites where the network is disrupted or disrupted. Power outages, cable breakage, destruction of mobile antennas can affect fixed and mobile networks.
Then there are pre-war dead zones where the refugee population sometimes finds themselves locked out and isolated from the outside world.
Finally, there is the case of people and companies that move with the struggle and want to continue working wherever they are. Satellite then represents a fast and efficient way to connect to the Internet or make calls.
But why does Starlink suddenly find itself in the spotlight when there are other services like the American Viasat, even though the latter has been hacked recently? There are several reasons for this. The main one is the ease of use.
“Anyone can install the kit which consists of two parts: a tripod antenna and a Wi-Fi router box. No need to point at the satellites”explains Clément Bruguera, IT and Emergencies manager at Télécoms Sans Frontières.
The use of other services would require training of the people who receive and use the equipment. Difficult to implement in the context of a war where the frontline is changing every day.
The other big advantage is that Starlink offers never-before-seen speeds for satellite, at the level of a fiber optic line. Some Ukrainians testified to have exceeded 100 Mbits/s.
There is also latency which is very low for a satellite service because the constellation evolves in low orbit. The material being free, as well as the service, further encourages Ukrainians to turn to Starlink.
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Finally, it is possible that this network is currently less vulnerable to attacks, whether hardware or software. Simply because the system is tightly controlled by SpaceX, which has not delegated anything to the partners: neither the operation of terrestrial infrastructure, nor distribution and marketing.
Add to that that the service’s opening is recent, it leaves less time for hackers to find flaws. But we cannot exclude that the Russians could one day damage SpaceX satellites, block communications or disable associated boxes.
Meanwhile, what everyone fears is that isolated users will be easily detected by the Russians emitting signals that would betray their presence. They would then run the risk of being eliminated. Hence this recommendation, which does not always seem to be followed: Starlink kits should only be used in an emergency and briefly. It is also best to move right after or place the antenna as far away from the user as possible. Unless you use it in the middle of a densely populated area.
Starlink’s service quality looks great at the moment, as Fedorov assured. Washington post. We’ll have to see if that lasts as more users connect.
Sources: The Washington Post, Times