Telstra and Elon Musk’s Starlink Join Forces to Offer Rural Connectivity

Telstra and Elon Musk’s Starlink Join Forces to Offer Rural Connectivity

Telstra and Starlink have signed an agreement that’ll see the former offer broadband and voice services over the latter’s satellite tech for customers in rural and remote areas of Australia.

“Telstra is always looking to invest in new and better connectivity options for our customers. We know that collaborating with the right partners is one of the best ways to help unlock a digital future, in this case for people in rural and remote Australia looking for an improved voice or broadband service,” Telstra CEO Vicki Brady said in a statement.

The incumbent telco, she said, has been testing and trialling Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology, landing on that provided by Elon Musk’s Space X as the best option. One of the benefits of LEO satellites are that they are much closer to Earth, allowing them to send and receive signals much faster. This makes them a great option for services that need low-latency, like voice and video calls or providing backhaul to mobile networks.

Telstra isn’t the only one looking to LEOs, though. Last month, NBN Co announced that it too was getting interested in Low Earth Orbit satellites. But, nothing like what Telstra announced with Starlink is even close to being ready. NBN released a ‘closed request for information’ to LEO providers, to understand the services that are provided. The company is hoping to further develop its satellite footprint, and figure out how it could use LEOs to service its user base with internet plans. The company wants to delve into pricing certainty, options for local support, and network and data sovereignty (to allow NBN providers access to the technology).

Anyway, back to Telstra and as part of the Starlink deal, the telco will be able to provide connectivity options for its business customers in Australia and overseas, as a higher bandwidth business grade option in areas without fixed and mobile connectivity.

The new Starlink service won’t completely replace what Telstra has in place at the moment, however. Brady said Telstra will continue to use NBN Fixed Wireless, Telstra’s own mobile network, as well as older copper and radio networks. The Starlink service will simply provide an additional connectivity option.

Telstra said it will announce pricing and device details closer to launch, which it expects to be in late 2023.


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