Elon Musk’s satellite Starlink technology is to be part of a UK government trial to get better internet connectivity to remote parts of the country.
The technology, which uses more than 3,000 low Earth orbit small satellites to beam a broadband signal and is operated by the firm SpaceX, will initially be trialled at three remote locations – Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire Moors national park, Wasdale Head in the Lake District and two sites within Snowdonia national park, the government said.
Recent tests have shown that in many locations, Starlink satellites can deliver internet speeds of up to 200 megabits a second – four times faster than the current UK average broadband speed of just over 50Mbps, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.
The government said it was continuing to look at the capability of the system, as well as looking at other solutions and services with different suppliers.
Musk, the world’s richest man, has become a polarising figure in recent months following a turbulent takeover of Twitter that has divided opinion because of his push for less content moderation on the social media platform and mass layoffs of staff.
On the satellite scheme, culture secretary Michelle Donelan said: “High-speed broadband beamed to Earth from space could be the answer to the connectivity issues suffered by people in premises stuck in the digital slow lane.
“Ensuring everyone can get a quality internet connection is crucial to our levelling up plans and these trials aim to find a solution to the prohibitively high cost of rolling out cables to far-flung locations.”
Last month, Musk announced his company would continue to pay for Starlink satellite internet in Ukraine, a day after suggesting he could not keep funding the project which he said was losing around $20m a month.
He tweeted: “The hell with it. Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
Musk drew the ire of Ukrainians last month when he posted a tweet suggesting a Ukraine-Russia peace deal that included formally annexing Crimea to Russia and holding UN-supervised elections in four Russian-occupied regions in Ukraine. Musk later denied a report that he had spoken to Vladimir Putin before floating the plan, which he had presented as a Twitter poll.