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Taiwan is rushing to build its own analogue of Starlink.

Published: 2023-01-06

After studying the experience of using Starlink satellite terminals in various emergency situations, the Taiwan authorities decided to create their own satellite constellation. It can be used for both civil and military purposes. So far, the island authorities are negotiating with several local and international investors to raise funds for the project. Local aerospace agency TASA intends to spin off its existing satellite division into a separate company.

According to TASA, the agency intends to implement a project to launch low-orbit satellites into space, the government intends to retain a minority but significant stake in the company being created. Representatives of the Taiwanese authorities stressed that, among other things, they are studying the experience of using Starlink satellite terminals in other regions of the world in the event that the regular Internet is turned off, which will provide access to communications not only to the public, but also to journalists and authorities in an emergency.

According to the Taiwanese authorities, the commissioning of the new service will take "several years", meanwhile, experiments are already being carried out with non-geostationary satellite terminals in 700 locations on the island in case of various emergencies, including in the event of a conflict with China. Among the possible sources of funds is the venture investor Draper Associates from the United States. He has already invested in SpaceX and Tesla, but has yet to comment on Taiwan's plans. TASA reports that the plans are not developed enough for public discussion.

Low orbit satellites, unlike geostationary satellites, fly much closer to the Earth, and their use can significantly reduce signal transmission delays. At the same time, for stable communication, it is necessary to use large groups moving along given orbits - geostationary options are deprived of this drawback.

Many industry experts are skeptical about the commercial prospects of the Taiwanese project in a market dominated by Starlink. The latter is the only satellite operator that has its own launch capacity - on SpaceX ships. In addition, dozens of startups are fighting for funds to fill the corresponding segment. According to one of the Gartner experts Bill Ray, in the end there will be 4-5 global providers - how Taiwan intends to position its project against their background is still unknown. According to other experts, small countries with their own constellations, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia, may well enter the market for low-Earth satellite constellations. Taiwan has great potential and can also implement its own satellite project - satellites can be used for both commercial and military purposes. Experts specify that 120-150 satellites will be required to cover the region with communications, the construction and commissioning of which will require considerable funds and rapid prototyping.

It is known that TASA is already collaborating with Taiwanese startups like Tron Future Tech and Rapidtek to develop special antennas and transmitters, as well as with other companies that can potentially provide the island with its own satellite communications.