Elon Musk presents his constellation of satellites at MWC to bring internet around the world
Founder of Tesla and SpaceX participates in the congress by videoconference to explain his new project
L'Hospitalet de LlobregatIt was the most awaited conference of the MWC 2021 and high expectations have meant that half an hour before it began fervent followers were already queuing up outside the auditorium, which was filled to its maximum (covid safe) capacity. Technology magnate Elon Musk was not physically present in Barcelona but spoke from California, appearing on a giant screen. The founder of the electric car brand Tesla and of the aerospace group SpaceX explained his next big bet: Starlink. Musk is developing a constellation of low orbit satellites to bring internet coverage to any corner of the world and at low cost.
The entrepreneur has admitted, however, that it is a very expensive initiative and which has already ruined other companies that have tried. "My goal is not to bankrupt myself," Musk said, laughing. Still, the cost of Starlink is also of astronomical dimensions. The total bill for the project, its creator has explained, can stretch from $20bn to $30bn (€16.5bn to €25bn). "Basically, it is a lot", he admitted, as a cat strolled curiously behind him. This constellation of satellites, Musk has stressed, will allow high-speed connection to reach remote parts of the planet where now you cannot even access fibre optics.
At the moment, the tycoon already has more than 1,500 of these devices in orbit and operates them in a dozen countries. Musk's usual ambition is evident in his forecasts: he assures that within twelve months he will have at least half a million customers. By August he expects to have coverage all over the world, with the exception of the two poles. For the entrepreneur, the business will be viable because it will fill a gap between fibre optics and the new 5G networks. "It could be very useful for telecom operators," he said.
The next big challenge
Surely, this was the point that most interested the audience of a congress for a telecom sector keen to know whether the founder of Tesla will be an ally or a competitor. Musk has opted more for the first option than the second and has advanced that he is about to announce an agreement with two major operators to promote Starlink. The service is already being offered with a trial version for a $100 monthly subscription, in addition to the $500 the equipment costs. However, the entrepreneur is confident costs can be brought down.
Musk also gave the audience some insight into the way of thinking that has led him to create innovation giants such as Tesla and Space X. "All my work is based on the fundamental philosophy that we don't know what the answers are, but if we can expand the scope of our consciousness, we will know much better what questions to ask about the Universe," he said. The magnate disconnected practically without saying goodbye or responding to the moderator's last wish: "We hope to see you in Barcelona in 2022".