Elon Musk’s plans to reinvent the internet extend beyond free speech on Twitter. SpaceX’s Starlink better shows what the Musk-verse could, and probably will, look like.
Hysteria seems the best word to describe the always volatile world of Twitter at the moment. While half of today’s binary digital world rejoices, the other 50 per cent panics, as if virtual armageddon were upon us. I’m strangely apathetic to it all. Twitter’s already a cesspool, susceptible to delusion and misinformation. I’m sure I’ll regret this, but…What’s the worst that can happen?
Anyway, as seismic as the world’s richest man buying one of the world’s most important online platforms is, Elon Musk has already created two companies destined to alter the way the world works. In Tesla and SpaceX, Musk is not just reinventing automobile and intergalactic travel, but building the infrastructure to entirely change the way we go about our daily lives. A less censored Twitter could pale in comparison to the way SpaceX’s Starlink, in particular, redesigns the internet.
The way we currently connect to the internet will not last. Already, this is clear. For WiFi, individualised routers in cities where everybody is connected is inefficient. Mobile data is now a necessity, but expensive and controlled by a number of national suppliers. A cheaper, more efficient means of connecting to the internet will arrive. It’s a case of when, not if.
This is where Starlink could come in. The system offers its own satellite internet connection, in limited areas at present, but gradually growing coverage across the globe as SpaceX expands its fleet of satellites in low orbit. These connect to ground devices called satellite dishes – how very old-fashioned – that look like vessels to the future, rather than discs of the past.
Their website explains, “Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet. Users can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations.”
I’m not just being sucked in by the sleek design and smooth website. If Starlink expands – as Musk’s passion projects inevitably seem to – it could seemingly remove the need for WiFI and cable altogether. People could easily connect to the same, high-speed Starlink network anywhere in the world. At the beach? There’s Starlink. On a train? Starlink. Abroad, on holiday, up a mountain, at your home… Starlink’s internet connection would be there.
The ability to bring high-speed internet to remote locations is perhaps where Starlink could rise fastest. The rapidly growing population of developing countries are becoming increasingly connected, with cheap mobile phones making the internet accessible. But internet remains expensive. The ceiling of Starlink’s project is a cheaper, faster, and simpler product than anything telecommunications companies presently offer.
Admittedly, Starlink still has a long way to go to reach that ceiling. Its satellites currently number in the hundreds, when they need to be in the thousands – likely even tens of thousands. It’s also far too expensive and selective to compete with traditional broadband at the moment; how much the increased satellites, and thereby increased coverage, will bring down the Starlink cost remains to be seen. Tesla have successfully lowered their prices to be competitive and affordable (if at the top end), which is crucial to becoming the most valuable car brand in the world. If Starlink can do the same, it could lead an industry far larger than vehicles, dominating the very means of global connection.
As unlikely as that may presently seem, thus far, it’s got the Musk behind it. Love him or hate him – or, like me, find him equally irritating and impressive – the recent deal for Twitter will be, at most, only one small part of Musk’s digital kingdom. Or, as I have today dubbed it, the Musk-verse.