In today’s episode of Event Tech Podcast, Will Curran and Brandt Krueger talk about one of the most exciting new technologies in the world, or shall we say universe: Starlink. Last year, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the innovative broadband internet service for the first time and now, it’s seeing some huge developments. It sent out a beta program which enables users to set up satellite internet for approximately $100/month. And what does this mean for events?
In this episode, Will takes the wheel and brings Brandt up to speed with the project. Together, they embark on a journey of exploring the potential benefits of Starlink in events!
How Does Starlink Work?
Will starts the conversation by outlining the current reality of internet connectivity. “There’s people that have 10 gigabit internet connections now. And we think that this is commonplace. But it’s not true. There are still so many parts of the country that just don’t have good internet at all.”
People who live there don’t have many great options. “Not only is satellite internet access expensive per month, but all the hardware is expensive. You’ve got to buy a $400 dish and a lot of hardware. There’s only two satellite internet providers out there, but then again, it could be better than dial up. I’m sure there are people on dial up still. There’s probably people still on AOL as well,” Will says.
And that’s precisely what Starlink is trying to fix: make internet available for all. “They made an announcement about a month ago, saying they have this beta program for this new Starlink internet set up.” And it’s all really easy to use. “They ship you a box. I’ve been watching lots of videos on YouTube. It’s about $200 to do the deposit to get the gear. It comes with a router, the dish, and a 300 foot ethernet cable. It’s all done over power ethernet. It takes 25 Watts to power the whole thing. Then, you bring up the app on your phone and it connects to a satellite immediately. Not only is that a great user experience. What’s crazy is that they’re getting a hundred megabits per second constant internet up and down. We’re talking sub 100 millisecond pings on their connections!” says Will.
“SpaceX didn’t even announce this, people just logged on their phones and realized their internet was faster. It’s all about them pumping more satellites in the sky and improving those satellites in the way they connect.”
Starlink in Events: How Many Users Can Connect?
Excited about the potential of Starlink in events, Will wants to hear Brandt’s input. “Those types of speeds are crazy. There’s a lot of potential here. But it’s beta testing. It’s not many people on the network. At what point is it like a Wi-Fi network where the more people that are on it, does it start to slow down?” asks Brandt. “It’s what we talk about all the time when it comes to Wi-Fi networks. You’re the only person in the venue, you walk in, you run a speed test and that’s not necessarily going to be what you’re going to see the day of your show.”
Will has an answer ready in no time. “You could satisfy a total of 20,000 users at two megabits per second, average bandwidth, if none of the throughput is wasted on regions with very few users. So it does seem like there’s a cap per satellite in terms of total bandwidth that comes in.”
Starlink In Events: A Win For Remote Venues!
Will shares his vision for in-person events. “Immediately, everybody jumps back to using hotels as venues because they’re solidified. They have the internet, they have some infrastructure and good power. Then, people start to look at alternative venues. But then, if we talk from a technology standpoint, they don’t have enough power.” But with Starlink, that’s no longer a problem! “It enables connectivity for venues that are really out in the boondocks. Many opportunities now open up when it comes to events. Starlink can help support venues that can’t get good, reliable internet.”
Will mentions another feature that can work in favor of remote venues. “It’s portable, too! You’ll hear about it being geo-fenced in, but I watched a couple videos where people are going really far outside their geo-fenced area and they were still getting solid internet connections. So in the future, I can see it not being geo-fenced.”
Starlink In Events: Benefits For Event Planners
Will is on a roll. “One of the big benefits is that it can move based on where it needs to be pointed. As an event planner, you could have this and throw it in the trunk. And then, when we do a wedding out in the middle of the desert, which people apparently love to do in Arizona, event planners now have internet available for their clients. Also, you can upload pictures and things like that!”
He then moves the conversation in what is now a hot topic in the industry: hybrid events. “Now that our events are hybrid, everyone has to be on their phones to connect with the attendees virtually. What happens when the internet goes down?”
Brandt sees the value of Starlink in events, too. “400 megabits per second is more than enough to do a live video stream, doing a point to point call with someone in a remote area. As much as everyone’s looking forward to getting back to in-person events, this online stuff isn’t going away. The more that we can continue to open up the world for in-person events, we’re also going to continue to open up the world for online events.”
“Here’s another option of how this can be helpful,” says Will. “Everybody right now is streaming from studio spaces, their offices in their homes, right? But imagine the future. CEO wants to broadcast and do a keynote from where they’re breaking ground for their new warehouse or building. There’s obviously no internet there yet. At that point, they haven’t installed ISP or anything like that. Or, they’re in the middle of a park and you’re doing a parks and rec conference. And they want to do a walkthrough with the cameras. Pop the satellite down, pop it up, get internet in the middle of this park, and potentially live stream from different locations.”
Benefits For Company Retreats & Remote Workers
As the CEO of a remote company, Will also sees a benefit for remote workers in Starlink. “You have a company retreat and you go to an obscure place. Some people just want bust open their laptops and work with their coworkers, especially in the remote world. Our company never gets to really work in person unless someone’s traveling for an event or something like that. You don’t want to uncap them and make them disconnect. They could probably build something right then and there.”
In Conclusion: Starlink Connects People!
Before they bring the episode home, Brandt explains why he thinks it’s a good idea to have internet in every corner of the world. “The sooner we can get internet anywhere, the better. I still believe that the more we can connect to each other and the more that we can talk to each other from around the world, the less people seem like ‘the other’. And it’s almost always ‘the other’ that we have problems with. But when you have the entire world available, that changes how you look at things, such as diversity and inclusion,” he says.
Will throws in a few more benefits of Starlink in events. “It brings the ability to connect that is cheaper and easier. It also creates more competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear about someone live streaming their event or having an event in a random place and it was hosted through Starlink internet at some point in the future,” he concludes.