Defense and space industry experts may have reservations about whether Starlink is useful in Ukraine as the country fights back against the Russian invasion, but Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov believes in satellite internet service’s effectiveness. In a recent interview, Fedorov noted that Starlink terminals have been “very effective” in helping his country stay connected to the World Wide Web.
The minister mentioned that Ukrainians utilize thousands of Starlink terminals each day, and more are coming. Musk stayed true to his words on Twitter and sent more Starlink kits to the country. Fedorov stated that new shipments of the satellite internet systems have been arriving every other day. The minister also noted that Starlink’s internet connection has been excellent so far.
“The quality of the link is excellent. We are using thousands, in the area of thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day,” Fedorov told The Washington Post during an interview, which was done using a Starlink connection from an undisclosed location.
Starlink’s growth in Ukraine has been substantial, with the satellite internet service’s mobile app being the most downloaded application in the country earlier this month. An individual familiar with the matter — who opted to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the information — told the Post that there are over 5,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine.
Fedorov’s agency aims to ship Starlink terminals to areas in Ukraine where internet access has effectively been cut off. The minister also noted that Starlink is used to connect people when cellular networks are overloaded. Needless to say, Starlink seems to be working well in Ukraine, and the country seems to support the technology.
Still, defense and space industry experts expressed concerns about using Starlink terminals during the war. They worry that Starlink’s signals might be used to detect the location of antennas. Experts have warned that Starlink terminals could lead Russian forces straight to the Ukrainians.
Experts further argue that since Starlink is still new technology, there is still a lot to figure out about the system’s use and if it’s wise to use it in conflict zones. Brian Weeden, director of program planning for space sustainability nonprofit Secure World Foundation, shared this sentiment. “The answer is it’s potentially useful, but there’s a lot we don’t know,” he said.
To play devil’s advocate, since the technology is new, the Russians may not know how to use it to their advantage either. According to Fedorov, the Russians have not used Starlink to locate Ukrainians. The minister noted Starlink terminals have typically been used in “densely populated areas where there would be a lot of civilians anyway.” “They currently appear to be very busy attacking the websites of our small towns and villages. I think they’re just not at that point yet,” Fedorov said.
Elon Musk, for his part, provided a quick comment to the Post. When asked by the publication for a comment about his Starlink efforts in Ukraine, the CEO just asked the publication to give his regards “to your puppet master Besos,” referring to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
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