Category: Starlink

Internet Waypoints


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


It has been a few years since I was able to attend the Founder Camp, an annual celebration and gathering of founders backed by True Ventures. The global pandemic and travel restrictions made it impossible for us to host the event, but we found a way to gather outdoors and enjoy each other this year. While we call all work from remote corners of the world, there is no joy more than being in each other’s presence. IRL, rocks! 

I didn’t do any work yesterday other than attending various conversations. The energy from the event kept me up late, and I spent a lot of time on my iPad, reading and catching up on my massive “read it later” list. In doing so, I found some interesting nuggets that caught my eye. 

  • Spotify launched the Car Thing. It likely will try and hasten what insiders already know: radio listening is going down in the cars. New technologies, bigger screens, and transition to EVs mean that the “radio” won’t be at the center of the entertainment experience — our phones are. 
  • Remember streaming was supposed to kill the music business? Quite the opposite is true, actually. In 2021, the global revenues were $25.9 billion, up by $4 billion over 2020, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report. Streaming accounted for 65.0% of recorded music revenues, up from a 61.9% share in 2020. Revenues from ad-funded streaming services (including video services) matched physical sales in 2021. There are 523 million paid (Read more...)

So why is SpaceX buying Swarm?


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


SpaceX, a company known for making big splashy announcements — thanks to its media & attention savvy founder — very quietly snapped up a small startup called Swarm Technologies. In case you were wondering, “why?” SpaceX made the acquisition, then let me help you out: it is all about devices — more accurately put, the connected devices that need some connectivity. Some of us who love nerdy things, this category: Internet of Things.

The connected devices, especially in the industrial arena, have been a slow starter, mostly because the incumbents are slow to change, hate to spend money, and frankly, have not quite understood the importance of data. I saw that when “the cloud” was still young. SpaceX is betting that with bigger brand recognition and deeper pockets, they will turn Swarm’s business into a big moneymaker.

Swarm makes tiny satellites, which are even smaller than microsats. Think about the size of a stack of iPad Minis. Their satellites operate in VHF, different from Starlink. Swarm’s idea was to deploy up to 150 of these satellites and help connect devices from boring old industries such as agriculture, logistics, and energy. If they can get data from that connectivity, they can get smarter about their operations.

Swarm’s Satellites

The idea helped Swarm get about $35 million in venture funding. It also helped that the founders had some solid tech-chops. The company was the brainchild of Dr. Sara Spangelo & Dr. Ben Longmier: Spangelo worked on small satellites and autonomous aircraft at (Read more...)

Where did the words go?


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


black text on gray background
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

E. B. White, an essayist for The New Yorker (and author of many books), once said: 

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." 

He probably was describing me — during the last week. At the start of this month, I set myself a goal — blog 500-word pieces every day. It was an effort to become a writing fit. I hope to write for a column for a publication shortly, and I want to regain my writing skills. As you might have gathered, I didn’t hit my goals this week. 

This week’s failure made me reflect on my past. When I was a professional writer (blogger, if you are pedantic), my writing was reactive, whether to some breaking news or a conversation or an interview. And on rare occasions, it would be like a finished lego set — where many bits and pieces from conversations, facts, news events, and theories would all neatly fit together. Whatever it was — being in the flow is a big part of writing steadily — one needs external input to spark internal creativity. 

Another crucial difference, perhaps, is that I have different commitments on my time today than in the past. I am less singular about writing about technology (and its impact) than I used to be. While technology is still a primary lens with how I view my world (and life), I find myself spending more (Read more...)

Starlink on wheels, ships, and planes


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


About a month ago, I wrote about the state of Starlink, the satellite broadband division of SpaceX, and speculated that I won’t be surprised if “the Starlink network evolves into Tesla’s very own broadband backbone, connecting all Tesla vehicles.” Elon Musk, the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, threw cold water on that theory in a tweet. 

However, a new FCC filing shows that Starlink wants to offer connectivity to aircraft, ships, large trucks, and RVs. They picked the right target market for sure — the broadband choices on ships and aircraft are pretty meager. Mobile broadband is non-existent when you are using those modes of transportation.

However, I wouldn’t dismiss the Tesla vehicle network that quickly, despite what Elon said. In a January 2020 call, he said that in some years. Tesla could have Starlink terminals. Anyway, since Tesla has concrete plans to make trucks, so that would be a good start of Tesla’s backbone. Connecting its future big-boy trucks (Cybertruck) and moving trucks could help Tesla finetune the hardware for Starlink. 

And if the trajectory of all silicon has shown us anything, it is that miniaturization happens quickly. And capabilities increase even faster. I still remember the roof-sized dishes we needed to get satellite television. Those dishes are much smaller now. 


The (present) state of Starlink’s network


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


According to an FCC filing (PDF) submitted as per the requirements that come with the $885 million subsidy SpaceX received as part of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the company’s Starlink has 10,000 users on its network. It has 1,000 satellites in orbit at present. Starlink is capable of launching 60 satellites at a time, with launches slotted every two weeks. It has a target to launch 4,400 low-earth orbit satellites. 

Elon Musk’s company says it has met and exceeded the target of 100 megabits down and 20 megabits up in trials. It has demoed the performance of 95% of network round-trip latency measurements at or below 31 milliseconds. For voice, the filing explains, the company plans to use a white-label managed service provider and support SIP. 

While it is not broadband (by which I mean fixed-line broadband), it still is better than the marginal broadband access we currently have in America. The U.S. phone companies have gorged on rural subsidies for a long time. I hope Starlink, like Tesla, can disrupt the incumbents. It won’t surprise me even a tiny bit if, in the long run, the Starlink network evolves into Tesla’s very own broadband backbone, connecting all Tesla vehicles. 

Additional Reading: Some broadband realists believe that there are many limitations to Starlink and its capabilities. I recommend this piece by Alan Mauldin from two years ago. Tim Farrar, too, has reservations and is also highly skeptical of the RBOC plans.