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SpaceX's plan to launch Starlink service in Korea next year draws mixed reactions

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The official website of Starlink shows its satellite internet service will be available in Korea by 2023. Screenshot from Starlink's website
The official website of Starlink shows its satellite internet service will be available in Korea by 2023. Screenshot from Starlink's website

By Park Jae-hyuk

Consumers and experts have differed on SpaceX's latest announcement of its plan to start offering satellite internet service using Starlink in Korea next year.

While consumers have remained skeptical about demand for the service in Korea, which already has the world's fastest average internet connection speeds, experts mentioned its commercial potential, urging authorities to brace for the medium- to long-term impacts of foreign companies on Korea's sovereignty over telecommunication services.

According to the official website of Starlink, Thursday, Korea is categorized as a country where its satellite internet service is "coming soon," due to "pending service coverage or regulatory approval."

SpaceX posted on its website that the service will become available in 2023 in Korea as well as many countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. As for Japan, the service will be available from the third quarter of this year, according to the U.S. firm led by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

This is the first time for SpaceX to specify when it will launch Starlink service in Korea.

The company reportedly indicated its intention to enter the Korean market in January, when several Korean lawmakers visited its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The Ministry of Science and ICT, however, has denied the rumor that SpaceX contacted the Korean government to win a license for a telecom service here.

For SpaceX to offer Starlink in Korea, it would have to apply for the use of a certain frequency band and register as a key telecommunications business operator, both of which will take a considerable amount of time. Being a foreign company, it will also need to establish a subsidiary in Korea to qualify for registration.

In addition to the entry barriers, Starlink's relatively lower internet connection speeds was mentioned by domestic consumers as another obstacle to its success in Korea.

Local satellite internet service providers, however, expected SpaceX to capitalize on surging demand for data in Korea, which cannot be covered by cable networks alone.

"Industry insiders have predicted Starlink's entry into the Korean market, since SpaceX has expanded its presence around the world," a KT Sat official said.

Korea Information Society Development Institute research fellow Kim Ji-hwan warned in his recent report that the government's control over necessary high-tech networks could be weakened, if the country starts relying on services provided by foreign companies.

"The authorities need to pay attention to the policies of foreign countries on dominant global satellite internet service providers," he said.


Park Jae-hyuk pjh@koreatimes.co.kr


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