Elon Musk's Starlink kit arrives in Kerry ahead of broadband plan

The size of a small satellite dish, the kit that has made its way to Kerry includes a long cable and an indoor box said to be 'the size of a lump of turf'
Elon Musk's Starlink kit arrives in Kerry ahead of broadband plan

Elon Musk's Starlink is deploying a chain of satellites into space to provide cheap and fast broadband connection for remote rural locations across the world. Picture: AP

The initial kit to link Kerry's remote Black Valley to Elon Musk's Starlink internet has arrived in the Kingdom and is to be installed within days.

The pilot project in the valley is being conducted by the Department of Rural and Community Development, under license by the Commission for Communications Regulation, more commonly known as ComReg.

Shrouded in secrecy, the Starlink company has been liaising directly with Kerry County Council since late 2020 to trial the technology.

The size of a small satellite dish, the kit that has made its way to Kerry includes a long cable and an indoor box said to be "the size of a lump of turf". 

It will need a sheltered location, according to the council’s digital officer.

Community groups in the valley have been co-operating eagerly, and a location where the device could serve a number of single houses would be selected this week, Brian Looney confirmed.

“The only requirement is to see the sky,” he said of the location for the dish.

Simple to use, he said that he had already run a test on it.

Communications blackspot

The satellite beta pilot was among a suite of solutions being looked at to solve the communications problems of the valley, Mr Looney said.

While it would speed up internet, companies such as Eir would also be trying to resolve the valley’s long-term landline and poor mobile problems, he added.

Mayor of Kerry and Kenmare area councillor Patrick O’Connor-Scarteen has welcomed the multi-span approach. 

 Cumeendiff lake in The Black Valley, Killarney County Kerry Ireland. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Cumeendiff lake in The Black Valley, Killarney County Kerry Ireland. Picture: Don MacMonagle

Given the valley was the last area to get telephone or electricity, he said he did not want it to be left trailing again.

“There was a time when running water was the essential issue. Now it is access to the internet which is necessary now for most Government services,” Mr O’Connor-Scarteen said.

Light pollution 

Mr Musk, founder of SpaceX and electric carmaker Tesla, is deploying a chain of satellites into space to provide cheap and fast broadband connection for remote rural locations across the world.

However, the impact of the low-hanging satellites on Kerry’s international dark sky reserve, “the only gold reserve in the Northern Hemisphere” has been raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD, Eoghan Murphy.

The status was awarded to south Kerry in 2014 because of the pristine view of the constellations in the Kells to Skelligs area.

Low light bulbs have been put on the street lights in Cahersiveen, and the amount of light emanating from a single house is assessed in planning applications by the local council, lest they impact on the night sky.

Environment minister, Eamon Ryan, told the South Dublin TD “there is currently no legislation in Ireland dealing specifically with environmental light pollution.” 

The decision to proceed with the pilot project was a matter for Kerry County Council and his department had no role in the matter, Mr Ryan said.

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