SpaceX is betting big on its UK Starlink rollout, and is in talks to become part of the government’s $6.9 billion ‘Project Gigabit’ plan for rural internet

Elon musk starlink internet 4x3
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet is spreading fast across the UK. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty; Samantha Lee/Insider
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX is in talks with the UK government to provide Starlink internet to rural areas.
  • Starlink could become part of the government’s $US6.9 ($9) billion “Project Gigabit” internet plan.
  • SpaceX has also signed a deal with a British telecoms company to connect satellites with fibre networks, The Telegraph reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX is in talks with the UK government about expanding its satellite-internet service Starlink to rural areas as part of the nation’s $US6.9 ($9) billion “Project Gigabit” plan.

SpaceX on Friday met with the UK minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, a person with knowledge of the discussions told CNBC on Monday. The UK’s culture secretary confirmed on Friday that Starlink was being considered for getting internet to hard-to-reach communities in the UK.

On top of Project Gigabit discussions, SpaceX has also signed a deal with British telecoms company Arqiva to build ground stations and infrastructure to connect satellites to fibre networks and servers, a space industry insider told The Telegraph on Monday.

An Arqiva spokesperson declined to comment to Insider. SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The first phase of Project Gigabit was launched on Friday. The project promises to offer faster internet to more than 1 million homes and businesses in remote areas of the UK.

If Starlink and the UK reach a deal over Project Gigabit, Elon Musk’s space company could benefit from government funding to accelerate its coverage in the country. In the US, Starlink won nearly $US900 ($1,173) million from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December to deploy internet connection in underserved American communities.

Local internet providers in the US said Starlink shouldn’t get the FCC funding, saying the company uses “unproven” technology.

Starlink rival OneWeb also an option

The UK’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Friday that Starlink was one of the best ways to deliver internet in hard-to-reach communities, though other alternatives were being considered, such as balloons or autonomous aircraft, he said.

But Starlink satellites or those from OneWeb – a UK satellite company that was rescued by the government from bankruptcy in November 2020 – are preferred options because their technology are already in use, Sky reported.

People in the UK who signed up for Starlink began getting their kits at the end of December. Insider spoke to one of the first Starlink users in the UK, Philip Hall, who lives in rural Devon.

He said the service, which offers average speeds of around 150 megabits per second (Mbps), was “absolutely transformational.”