Starlink's first UK user told Insider what was like to go from zero broadband to zippy internet speeds in rural England

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Kate Duffy
·5 min read
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elon musk starlink internet 2x1
Elon Musk's Starlink internet service has arrived in the UK. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty; Samantha Lee/Insider
  • The first person in the UK to reportedly receive the Starlink kit told Insider how he set it up.

  • Philip Hall said his download speed jumped from 0.5 megabits per second to 85 Mbps with Starlink.

  • The router's range doesn't stretch that far, but Hall said what Musk has done is "transformational."

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At the end of last month, the UK approved Elon Musk's Starlink internet as the billionaire reaches closer to his goal of covering Earth with up to 42,000 satellites to create a superfast global broadband service.

Starlink is available to order in more than six countries. Northern US, southern Canada and now parts of Europe are taking part in Starlink's "Better Than Nothing Beta" test, which costs $99 a month, plus $499 for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the Starlink satellites.

In the UK, this translates to £439 for the kit and £89 subscription fee for 150 megabits per second (Mbps). But this is expensive considering some national providers offer speeds of up to 516 Mbps for £79 per month.

Philip Hall, in rural Devon, south-west England, told Insider he was one of the first people in the UK to receive the Starlink kit and test out its internet connection.

Hall has barely any internet connection where he lives, making running a business and contacting the family extremely challenging.

Despite the connection dropping out from time to time and the limited range of the signal, he said Starlink was "a hope and a prayer."

Here's how he set up Elon Musk's internet service in his own home.

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Philip Hall and his partner live in Brithem Bottom, a rural village located in Devon, south-west England. Before Starlink, they were getting 0.5 Mbps download speed and had no reception. Even the government initiative to provide internet fell through. Hall said he felt "powerless."

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00003
A photo of SpaceX's user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices "UFOs on a stick." They're designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites. Ashish Sharma/SpaceX

"Without broadband, you've got your arms behind your back," said Hall, who runs an IT business from home. He said his partner has only been able to access a Microsoft Teams call when every internet device in the house is switched off.

teen checking wifi internet connection
Maskot/Getty Images

Hall said he subscribed to the "Better Than Nothing Beta" test in early 2019. It was "quite challenging" to enrol in because it was designed for American citizens with zip codes, but he managed his way through.

starlink satellite internet beta sign up website screenshot june 2020
A screenshot of SpaceX's Starlink beta signup. SpaceX

He received an email on December 22nd asking if he'd like to place his order and pay £439 for the kit and £89 for the monthly subscription. He said the price included VAT, indicating it possibly came from a UK office.

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00001
A photo of SpaceX's user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices "UFOs on a stick," and they're designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites. SpaceX

The confirmation email came through on December 27th and it arrived on New Years Eve. Hall said he "very excitedly" posted a picture of the kit on the Starlink Reddit community but didn't open the box until the next day because he was with his family.

The Starlink kit arrived to Hall's house on New Year's Eve
Philip Hall

Within an hour of opening it on New Year's Day, Hall ran a Zoom quiz for his grandchildren. "It was wonderful," he said.

Starlink set up and ready to connect
Philip Hall

Hall is now seeing average download speeds between 85 and 90 Mbps. "It is absolutely transformational," he said. The connection has dropped out a couple of times but he said it's not a problem for people living in rural communities.

Starlink speed test
Philip Hall

After unpacking it from the box, Hall installed the Starlink app on his smartphone. He plugged in the terminal, which positions itself so it's facing the sky and then tilts to align with the satellites. "It's like an appliance," Hall said. "You literally just plug it in and follow an app."

Starlink kit in the box
Philip Hall

But the Starlink price is a fall back for some UK users. Starlink costs £89 a month for 100-150 Mbps, while some national providers offer download speeds of up to 516 Mbps for just £79 per month. Hall said he understands that fibre is cheaper, but where he lives, he can't get fibre so Starlink is the only alternative.

starlink satellite internet spacex smartphone phone trcker logo illustration GettyImages 1229328429
A photo illustration of a satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX's Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth. Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Without Musk's internet, Hall said that it was "like a chocolate teapot in terms of watching a video." Starlink has allowed Hall to stream TV series on Netflix and other services including Chromecast.

senior woman watching tv at home
Westend61/Getty Images

But like many other Starlink Reddit users, Hall said the range of the router doesn't stretch that far and the signal can be weak. "When we went to the other side of the house, we weren't picking it up."

Starlink UK visible
A Starlink satellite moves across the night sky over Saltburn on April 20, 2020 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Owned by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX aims to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites in the Earth's orbit to improve internet service across the globe. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

For people living in rural areas, such as Hall and even indigenous communities in Canada, Starlink can be transformational. "Elon Musk has transformed the whole thing. It's a very exciting time," Hall said.

Elon Musk
Axel Springer

Read the original article on Business Insider