Starlink Unveils New Advances in Satellite Internet Technology With Portable Antenna Kit

Over the past few years, SpaceX has built up its impressive constellation of internet-enabling satellites through Starlink. Other companies like Amazon have joined the fray through initiatives like Project Kuiper, but Starlink is still the most established and successful satellite internet operation on (and above) Earth. Now they have doubled down by unveiling the Starlink Mini, a portable kit that gives travellers internet on the go.

Satellite Internet Explained

Today, we rely on cables to ferry internet data across the world. From household wires to massive intercontinental cables, they still form the backbone of the World Wide Web despite our focus on wireless connectivity. The internet’s reliance on wired infrastructure can be a problem for rural and underdeveloped areas, however.

This is becoming more of an issue now that work and entertainment services have made their way onto the internet over the past few decades. Everything from research, shopping and even playing games are facilitated through the internet, best seen in the iGaming industry. Today, a lot of casino games are played digitally or through an interactive live stream, where players can play online roulette through their devices at home. The internet is more than an entertainment hub, so areas that don’t have proper infrastructure miss out on a lot more than streamed movies or casino games.

To try to solve the gap in internet infrastructure, companies like SpaceX have settled on the ultimate wireless solution. That’s sending thousands upon thousands of satellites (6,600+ as of June 2024) armed with lasers that can beam internet data down from above. The concept has been around for a while – it’s how aeroplanes get internet when they’re not over land – but SpaceX and other competitors are now sending satellites up at a rate never seen before. Once enough constellations are in orbit, access to them is sold to customers, and those in rural areas can have much better access to the internet.

SpaceX’s Starlink Mini

Until the arrival of Starlink Mini, this SpaceX service was separated into three different categories – home, roam, and boat. Home and boat are exactly what they sound like – satellite dishes mounted on your residence or your seafaring vessel. The roam option swaps out a permanent installation for a kickstand panel that can be set up on the floor, facing the sky. It’s an option for campers and RVers, but it’s supposed to be setup when the traveller has settled down at one location.

The new Starlink Mini is intended to be much more portable, coming in a small dish that has a Wi-Fi router built into it. It’s the size of most contemporary laptop models, intended to fit into a backpack. In a response on X, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed to have made his post using the new tech, and claimed “this product will change the world.”

While Musk is hardly an unbiased source, this is indeed a first-of-its-kind development in the satellite internet field. Portable routers exist for a while and work by snatching telecom signals and converting them to Wi-Fi. The Starlink Mini is different, combining a portable router with a dish that has bespoke access to their growing mega-constellation. Now that this tech is out of the bag, there’s no doubt that competitors like Amazon are trying to figure out their own model.

The portable satellite internet kit represents the ultimate realisation of Starlink’s goals, though it remains to be seen if there’s an audience for it. While profit and sales are always a concern, Starlink loves to grab headlines by bringing its service to drastically underdeveloped regions like remote tribal villages, and backpack internet from above will go a long way in bringing everybody online in the future.