Starlink terminals help Ukrainian soldiers operate drones, receive vital intelligence, and communicate with each other in areas where other secure networks are not available. The system also provides internet to Ukrainian NGOs and civilians and supports infrastructure across the country.
Each terminal connects to one of Musk's company SpaceX’s satellites, enabling the use of WiFi to access the Internet, a key feat as the Russian forces have taken aim at Ukraine's communications infrastructure.
Immediately after the war began, Musk responded to a request from Ukrainian Digital Transformation Minister Mykhail Fedorov to provide Starlink service to invaded Ukraine. About 85 percent of the 20,000 terminals were fully or partially funded by external sources, including the US, UK, and Polish governments, SpaceX confirmed in correspondence with the Pentagon.
Poland’s digital secretary of state Janusz Cieszyński told Bloomberg that Poland has purchased 11,700 Starlink terminals for Ukraine, including 5,000 purchased by state oil company PKN Orlen.
“SpaceX has promised to cover the cost of servicing the terminals purchased by Orlen,” and the Polish government “covers the full cost of the service” for each terminal purchased, amounting to about $50 per month per device, Cieszyński said.
The terminals cost USD 1,500 and USD 2,500 to ship to Ukraine. However, a much higher cost is providing connectivity. SpaceX says it pays for about 70 percent of the services operating in Ukraine, offering all terminals there the best possible option worth USD 4,500 per month, even though most are only contracted for the USD 500 per month service option.
Musk faced a wave of criticism last week, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after outlining a plan for a peaceful end to the war in a series of tweets. He proposed holding a new referendum in eastern Ukraine under UN supervision, leaving Crimea to Russia and granting Ukraine “neutral status.”
On Friday, Musk announced on Twitter that SpaceX would not be able to fund the Starlink service to Ukraine indefinitely.
But, on Saturday, he announced that his company would continue to fund Internet access via Starlink terminals in Ukraine, even though it “continues to lose money while other companies get billions of dollars in taxpayer money.”
Source: PAP, CNN