Ukraine to get 10,000 more Starlink antennas; funding problems are “resolved”

Enlarge / A Starlink satellite dish in Odesa, Ukraine, in March 2022.

Getty Images | NurPhoto

Ukraine will get over 10,000 more Starlink terminals in the coming months thanks to a new deal with SpaceX and funding from several European countries, Ukraine government official Mykhailo Fedorov said in an interview with Bloomberg. Fedorov said that “all financial issues have been resolved,” at least until the spring.

SpaceX previously asked the Pentagon to fund the Ukraine government and military’s use of Starlink broadband, saying it can’t afford to donate more user terminals or pay for operations indefinitely. But CEO Elon Musk backtracked from that stance in October, writing, “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.”

Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation, said in the new interview with Bloomberg that “Musk assured us he will continue to support Ukraine. When we had a powerful blackout, I messaged him on that day and he momentarily reacted and has already delivered some steps. He understands the situation.”

Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The war continues and has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes.

Starlink’s satellite Internet service has been vital for Ukraine’s military amid disruptions to wired broadband networks. “There is no alternative to satellite connections,” Fedorov told Bloomberg during the interview in his office in Kyiv.

Governments partially funded Starlink for Ukraine

Although the US government helped fund Starlink service in Ukraine, Musk wrote on October 7 that “only a small percentage” of Starlink terminals and service were paid for by outside sources and that the “operation has cost SpaceX $80M & will exceed $100M by end of year.”

The US Agency for International Development purchased 1,508 Starlink terminals for Ukraine in March for about $3 million and “delivered an additional 3,667 terminals that SpaceX donated, with the company paying for Internet service for all the terminals,” a Foreign Policy report last month said. Poland’s government “has paid around $5.9 million for Starlink services [in Ukraine], with support from Polish state enterprises,” and the UK has contributed as well, the report said.

Ukrainian residents have also purchased Starlink terminals themselves.

Fedorov told Bloomberg that Ukraine has received about 22,000 Starlink antennas since February, not including the 10,000 expected to be sent in the coming months. He also described new funding deals with European countries:

While there’s no contract yet, the governments of several European Union countries are ready to share payment, he said, declining to publicly identify them. “As of now all financial issues have been resolved,” he said, adding that Ukraine will need to find additional funding in the spring.

Ukraine is preparing for possible long-term outages “if Russia manages to further destroy the country’s energy infrastructure,” the Bloomberg story noted.

“We are ready to live without electricity for a month with at least mobile network and text messages being available,” Fedorov was quoted as saying. “Regarding Internet, we have a lot of Starlinks, but the key point is we have got a nod for another shipment that will be used to stabilize connection for critical situations.”

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