Testing of Starlink internet under way in Antarctica

Bandwidth-starved researchers rejoice

Starlink began testing its satellite internet access at McMurdo Station in Antarctica this week to the benefit of the area's researchers.

Up until now, the polar region has received internet via multiple satellite systems, none at high speed. Researchers are known to store data on hard drives for physical transportation rather than deal with the low bandwidth.

Antarctica researcher Peter Neff described the pre-Starlink capacity in a National Science Foundation document as "insufficient," with up to 1,000 people sharing the "equivalent to the connection enjoyed by a typical family of three in the United States."

Neff tweeted that he was "hoping to test this piece of equipment at McMurdo soon," referring to the satellite internet.

One Antarctica researcher confirmed to The Register that the internet connectivity in the polar region is "awful," but said it was "better than nothing."

"Some of the stations are squeaking by with enough bandwidth, but it's not reliable (e.g. no way during the day when everyone's awake)," he added.

"Of course, the ability to move data quickly off continent will open up interesting new research directions."

Last month, state-run infrastructure fund Desarrollo País and Singapore-based BW Digital subsidiary H2 Cable issued a request for proposals to build a submarine cable line that would connect to Antarctica.

SpaceX has over 3,000 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit beaming broadband internet to more than 500,000 subscribers. The company hopes to grow this number to nearly 12,000. ®

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