When Joe Mukherjee got his first email that the Starlink internet service was touching down in Haliburton, he wasted no time in ordering the service.
The Haliburton Lake resident had waited for months for the opportunity. As someone doing video calls for his job, he sought better service, struggling with slow speeds using other providers. He made it work by paying for separate connections for himself and the rest of his family.
The satellite service from U.S.-based SpaceX seeks to use Starlink to deliver better speeds in remote areas across the globe. Days after receiving it, Mukherjee said it is living up to that promise, with his download speeds going from less than 0.5 megabits per second (Mbps) to 150 in one test. Starlink said users can expect between 50-150 Mbps consistently.
“Big difference, there’s no question,” Mukherjee said. “I’m really optimistic this will be a game-changer. Not just for me, but I think my community at large.”
Starlink announced it was available in Haliburton Feb. 3, but only in a limited supply. Mukherjee is one of the first in the County to receive it. SpaceX declined to respond to questions on service availability.
Starlink does have its issues, Mukherjee said. There are intermittent stoppages – about two or three times on average in every 30 minutes, lasting between three and 15 seconds. He said that will not impact most things, though does generate pauses in live video calls.
“I hope it gets better so I can do video all day, every day,” he said, adding he is optimistic with SpaceX launching more satellites in the months to come.
The service is not inexpensive. The satellite hardware is $649, in addition to a $129 per month and $65 shipping to Haliburton. There are no data caps.
But for County residents waiting years for better internet service, Starlink could be a more imminent hope. The County, both independently and through its place with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), has been working on telecommunications infrastructure projects. EORN secured $213 million in funding last summer to improve cell coverage through Eastern Ontario. That project is going through a procurement process.
County Coun. Brent Devolin serves on the EORN board and said they are open to all technologies, including low-orbit satellites. However, he said details are still scarce on Starlink and its capacity.
“We all want connectivity. We’re like in the desert and we want a glass of water,” Devolin said. “The problem with some of the promotional stuff – there’s been a lot of bravado and not enough detail.”
Devolin told County council Nov. 25 he was excited by the proposals coming forward for EORN’s cell gap project. He said if all goes well, there would be an announcement coming in March.
But going forward, Devolin said demand for connectivity will be unlimited.
“All the available technology, going forward, we’re going to need them all.”
But Mukherjee said he could not wait any longer after reaching out to anyone he could about improving his service. He said it could be many years before projects such as EORN’s can make a difference for him.
Starlink “is for areas like us,” Mukherjee said. “Situations where it’s very difficult, very expensive for the incumbents to provide a comparable service to a metropolitan area.”