The satellite service of Starlink is going big in Ukraine, well beyond expectations. This was revealed by the local Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorovwho reported via Twitter the presence of about 150,000 active users per day. An exciting statement, but one that clashes particularly with the estimates that had been collected up to now.
Starlink’s numbers in Ukraine are staggering
The company that runs Starlink, SpaceX, had reported “only” 250,000 subscriptions to its service in March. If we were to slavishly interpret Fedorov’s words, it would mean that the satellite network owned by billionaire Elon Musk has taken a giant step forward in global coverage. However, we do not know what the diplomat’s calculation criteria were and both he and Starlink agreed to clarify the issue of Ukrainian connectivity.
In the past, NBC had estimated that Kiev had gotten 10,000 receivers, while The Post had talked about about 5,000 units, a figure that at the beginning of April was also briefly mentioned in a press release published by the US government. A press release that was though promptly modified to eliminate any reference to the number of batches shipped.
Rough data on Starlink’s usage: around 150K active users per day. This is crucial support for Ukraine’s infrastructure and restoring the destroyed territories. Ukraine will stay connected no matter what. pic.twitter.com/XWjyxPQJyX
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) May 2, 2022
Destination and purposes of the parables
It is difficult to understand in which area of the nation the parables are used and who is actually managing them, whether the army or civilians. There is talk of hospitals, power plants and critical infrastructures, but it should also be remembered that the use of Starlink satellite communication involves considerable risks in the context. In fact, it seems that the parabolic activity makes it more vulnerable to tracking of militias and Musk himself has recommended an extremely cautious and thrifty use.
It should therefore be remembered that Starlink, as well as the other counterparts active in Ukraine, is at the center of a very particular war evolution: both parties involved in the clashes are using private satellite image and communication services to intensify the strategic possibilities of the respective Intelligences. Non-governmental companies have revealed the destruction of bridges, the presence of mass graves, refugee flows and the movements of some military convoys by way of the wrong way. What is happening in Ukraine therefore represents a more unique than rare precedent and could help determine the prospects for the wars of tomorrow, as is the cyberwar.
Little transparency, but justified
From this point of view, it is normal that both Fedorov and Starlink are not particularly interested in discovering too much the cards placed on the table, also because we do not actually know whether the equipment granted by SpaceX is or is not used by the US for espionage purposes. What we know for sure is that the Starlink receivers that arrived in Ukraine are partially financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and that, at least on paper, Washington can exploit Musk’s satellites as and when it wants, thanks to the Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI).
Finally, it remains to be understood what the future fate of the service that Starlink is currently providing for free in Kiev is to be understood. At the beginning of April the company had talked about a “unlimited data” service recognized pro bono for a duration of three months, but at the time it was still hoped that the clashes could subside quickly, while now the possibility that the war will continue to the bitter end seems increasingly concrete. What will happen once the announced threshold is crossed? If the numbers provided by Fedorov are reliable, it is only to be hoped that Musk’s generosity will be renewed and that connectivity will be reconfirmed until the end of hostilities.