The knotty issue of how Ukraine’s now-critical Starlink satellite internet should be paid for has been at least temporarily resolved, according to the country’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov. It appears that a few European Union nations have decided it’s in everyone’s interest to keep the country online as the Russian invasion persists.
In October it was revealed that apart from an initial burst of funding to get Starlink terminals on the ground in Ukraine, there was no real arrangement in place to pay SpaceX for the service it was providing. At retail value the approximately 22,000 terminals sent to Ukraine would cost tens of millions of dollars — though this is only an estimate of both the actual cost and the number of active terminals.
SpaceX sought funding from the U.S. military but ultimately decided to press on without it — although this was framed as a charitable act at the time, it is possible that negotiations with other stakeholders were beginning to bear fruit.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Fedorov (who is also deputy prime minister) explained that “as of now all financial issues have been resolved.”
He declined to be more specific, saying only that several EU countries had pledged support at least through the spring. With winter coming and infrastructure already strained, having funding in place for decentralized internet access is one less thing the war-torn country will have to worry about.
In fact, there is a new arrangement for more than 10,000 terminals to be sent: “We have got a nod for another shipment that will be used to stabilize connection for critical situations,” Fedorov said. “There is no alternative to satellite connections.”
SpaceX recently expanded into the defense contractor world with Starshield, but that is more for U.S. government contracts. The Ukraine Starlink terminals seem to be from the professional and consumer side of the business.