According to a recent announcement from the country’s telecoms regulator, Subtel, Chile will be the first country in Latin America to be served by Starlink, a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet constellation described (on its website) as ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge.
Starlink, which will provide satellite internet access, is being constructed by SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer as well as a space transportation services and communications company. The Starlink constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low earth orbit, which communicate with designated ground transceivers.
In fact Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to the earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite internet.
A constellation of satellites designed to provide low-latency, high-speed broadband internet in previously unreachable places around the world is an attractive prospect for countries trying to connect remote areas. In the case of Chile, Starlink will be used for connectivity pilots throughout the country, initially to schools in two locations: Caleta Sierra (in the Coquimbo Region) and Sotomó (in the Los Lagos Region).
These are one-year pilots during which Starlink will offer connectivity for the provision of internet services, with data speeds varying from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s. The services are authorized through an experimental permit issued by Subtel for non-commercial use.
The country’s telecommunications ministry, through Subtel, will conduct digital connectivity pilots to improve the quality of life of people by providing Starlink to enable access to online classes, telemedicine services and e-commerce, as well as working from home. It appears that no start date has yet been specified.
Chile’s vice-minister of telecommunications, Francisco Moreno, has been quoted as saying that “in almost four years of government we have seen the growth of fixed internet in Chile, going from 45 percent to 60 percent of household penetration. Without a doubt, these are great advances, but the goal [of reducing the existing digital divide] is very ambitious, which is why today we are giving way to Starlink services in Chile as a concrete alternative to improve the quality of life of Chileans who live in isolated and/or rural locations, and do not have the opportunity to access a high-quality internet.”