During the Russian-Ukrainian conflict of 2014, the Internet became a new battleground. On one side, we had Russia with its traditional media; on the other, we had Ukraine with its social media. Russian information channels cut off from most of their audience began to develop anti-Ukrainian propaganda. The Ukrainian response was twofold: first, to increase the number of media outlets that were reporting on events from a more balanced perspective and second, to counterattack with videos and images that showed the real situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. These videos were posted on social networks like YouTube which continued functioning normally in Ukraine but were inaccessible or blocked in Russia. The war between information was strong enough to provoke intervention by Elon Musk and his Starlink project.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a network of satellites designed to provide Internet access to remote areas of the planet. Each satellite is equipped with a ground station that will receive and transmit data from other satellites. The project is a joint venture between SpaceX and Google, with an investment of $1 billion. SpaceX’s ambition is to build a network of about 12,000 satellites that will operate in low Earth orbit. They will operate at altitudes of about 700-800 km and have a direct line of sight from any point on the planet. This orbital position makes them ideal for providing communications coverage to remote areas of the planet. The satellites use a Ka-band frequency that can transmit large amounts of data per second and has very low noise compared to the more traditional C-band frequencies. The satellites in low Earth orbit are also much closer to Earth, which means that less energy is needed for their operation, reducing the cost of the project significantly.
How Starlink will help Ukraine in its fight against the Russian media
The satellite network will give an opportunity to break the information blockade imposed by the Russian media on eastern Ukraine, Crimea, and Moldova. This is an important advantage, as the Internet infrastructure of Ukraine is in poor condition. Despite the importance of information flows in the war against the Russian Federation, only 5.3% of the national budget is allocated to modernize the IT infrastructure. The Ukrainian government is currently considering building a new Internet network. This network will be connected to Starlink and will include the Internet Exchange Point in Kiev. The Kiev IX is an important link in the global Internet infrastructure that can connect the Ukrainian network with the rest of the world through Starlink. This will enable quick transfer of information between the Ukrainian and Western media outlets, enabling the transfer of information about the real situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
What is the current state of Ukrainian IT infrastructure?
The Ukrainian IT infrastructure is in a very poor condition. Most of the telecommunications and hosting services are owned by oligarchs or the government and have outdated equipment. The Ukrainian Internet Exchange Point is one of the oldest and most outdated in the world. The Ukrainian government has no strategy for developing the IT infrastructure. It allocates only 2% of the national budget to the development of IT infrastructure. As a result, the average speed of Internet in Ukraine is currently 8th in the world. This is slow enough to make people wait for the transfer of data to take several hours.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict of 2014 demonstrated the need for better Internet infrastructure between Ukraine and the rest of the world. The Starlink project, which will launch 12,000 low Earth orbit satellites, can help this happen. The satellites will provide Internet coverage to remote areas of the planet and will enable quick transfer of information between Ukrainian and Western media outlets. Starlink will give an opportunity to break the information blockade and bring the truth to eastern Ukraine. This is an important advantage, as the Internet infrastructure of Ukraine is in poor condition. The Ukrainian government is currently considering building a new Internet network. This network will be connected to Starlink and will include the Internet Exchange Point in Kiev.