Starlink Raises Fees For Ukraine1st Dec 2022
The Financial Times reported on 30th November that the Starlink satellite communications company had significantly raised prices for Ukraine. Starlink prices have been in focus since August, when the company offered a deep discount for Ukrainian users. The monthly subscription fee had been lowered from USD 100 per month to USD 60 “to reflect local market conditions”, the FT reports. The current rise, to USD 75 per month, goes into effect on 29th December. The cost of a terminal will rise as well, from USD 600 to USD 700.
No space-bourne substitute for Starlink
Starlink remains a choke point for Ukrainian communications needs. This is in contrast to satellite imagery. Ukrainians can and have ensured access to satellite imagery by purchasing an already operational SAR satellite.
While other space-bourne internet access systems are available, none are currently implemented for the mass numbers of users that Starlink handles. Also, Starlink has proven to be more resilient than others. For example, Viasat’s link with Ukrainian government users was severed by the Russian government in the early hours of Russia’s broad-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. However, Starlink’s programmers have been able to stave off these attacks, sometimes as they unfold.
The result is a service with no viable alternative for most users. This magnifies price changes and service issues.
Price shocks good and bad
In August 2022, Starlink lowered subscription rates for many users in developing economies. Brazilians, for example, saw their bill lowered to meet purchasing power parity with other economies. Ukraine also saw a drop, in this case from USD 100 per month to USD 60.
However, Elon Musk complained in September about the amount of money Starlink was losing in Ukraine after months of supporting the country. An uproar in the press eventually caused Musk to tweet, “The hell with it… we’ll just keep funding the Ukrainian govt…” on 15th October. Musk and the U.S. Government are in talks about subsidizing the services provided for free by Starlink.
The current price rise, though, will affect the hundreds of services, often funded by donations, which provide desperately needed internet communications across Ukraine.