Elon Musk announces free Starlink coverage for Ukraine despite service losing money

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In a brutal turn of events, SpaceX chief Elon Musk announced moments ago that his company would fund Starlink in Ukraine for the remainder of the war. Mr Musk’s announcement came after he became the center of controversy following a leaked letter from the Ministry of Defense in which his company had asked for financial support to provide Starlink coverage to Ukraine. Reports from the war-torn country have suggested that Starlink has proven crucial in maintaining communications, simply because of its operating architecture that allows mobility and high-speed internet at the same time.

Elon Musk bows to pressure and announces free coverage of Starlink in Ukraine

The change of opinion is the latest in the controversy the executive has found himself embroiled in after taking to his favorite social media platform Twitter and suggesting a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. His proposal, which involved holding elections in Russian-held areas, did not sit well with users, and things got worse as Mr Musk was accused of siding with the Russians in the dispute the bloodiest in Europe since World War II.

Things took an even uglier turn when CNN published a leaked letter from the Pentagon in which SpaceX asked the government agency to help with the costs of Internet coverage in Ukraine. He pointed out that while governments had borne the bulk of the cost of shipping nearly 25,000 satellite dishes to Ukraine, SpaceX was still funding most of the cost of covering the country.

The report drew even more backlash, and charity workers helping Ukraine’s military on the front lines said they were unaware of any government support for Starlink. They went on to add that most of the soldiers they met had purchased the satellite dishes themselves and the monthly fees were paid out of pocket.

Starlink uploads and downloads data for Ukraine from March to May 2022. Image: Elon Musk/Twitter

Amid all of this, the SpaceX chief took to Twitter moments ago to announce that his company would continue to provide Starlink services to Ukraine for free, despite support from other Pentagon companies.

According to him:

Damn…even if Starlink continues to lose money and other companies receive billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free

14:06 October 15, 2022 Twitter for iPhone

In his earlier tweets, Musk also shared that SpaceX not only bears the costs of covering Ukrainians out of its own pocket, but the company has also dedicated significant resources to blocking Russian attempts to sabotage the services. Starlink dishes, which were shipped to Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian invasion, were shipped to the country after a Russian cyberattack knocked out internet service offered by rival Viasat.

Earlier today, Musk also share that the amount his company is asking the Pentagon is less than the cost of a single Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite. He added that although the GPS signal is easy to block, Starlink has proven to be much more resilient.

Countering Russian attacks is also hinder Starlink’s development progress according to Musk, as his company had to shut down the platform to avoid disruption. The service has received praise for its performance in Ukraine from all sides, and its performance has also led the Ukrainian military to contact SpaceX directly to provide it with more terminals.

Christy J. Olson