With Russia’s invasion causing significant damage to Ukraine’s internet infrastructure, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Saturday his company would bring its Starlink satellite internet service to the country. “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” Musk said on Twitter. “More terminals in route.”
Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022
Musk’s pledge came after Mykhailo Fedorov, the country’s vice prime minister, mentioned him in a tweet. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand,” Fedorov said.
While many were quick to praise Elon Musk’s announcement, others like Rebellion PAC executive director Brianna Wu noted Starlink is unlikely to help Ukrainians stay connected. For one, as The Verge points out in its review of the service, a Starlink dish requires a “near-perfect” line of sight with SpaceX’s constellation network. An urban environment is not a place you want to deploy the service since buildings (and, in this case, smoke from Russian artillery shelling) can easily obstruct a signal. There’s also the question of how you would get Starlink terminals to people in the city and other parts of the country. Kyiv, for instance, is surrounded by Russian forces.
⚠️ Confirmed: Real-time network data show a major disruption to #Ukraine's internet backbone provider GigaTrans, which supplies connectivity to many other networks. The incident comes as heavy fighting is reported in #Vasylkiv and #Kyiv 📉
📰 Background: https://t.co/S0qJQ7CbNv pic.twitter.com/EksnZjs9Ay
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 26, 2022
Following four days of intense fighting, internet connectivity in Ukraine has been spotty at times, particularly in the parts of the country that have seen the most combat. On Saturday, NetBlocks told Reuters it saw connectivity to GigaTrans, Ukraine’s backbone internet provider, temporarily fall to below 20 percent of normal levels. While Ukraine hasn’t suffered a nationwide blackout yet, there’s worry the situation could change at any moment, potentially making it far more difficult for Ukrainians to stay in touch with their loved ones.
Update 02/28 3:19PM ET: Per a tweet from Ukraine's Mykhailo Fedorov, the Starlink Terminals Musk promised over the weekend have arrived in the country. See below.