How Rural Service Providers Can Compete Against Starlink

Telecommunications is one of the fastest-growing industries when it applies to speed and consistency of technological evolution. Right when it seems like you have a deep understanding of the technologies of today, a new solution breaks into the market that changes everything.

The next change is here and it’s being led by one of the most prominent market disrupters of all time. Starlink Internet service, led by Elon Musk, is the next solution that rural and regional service providers need to prepare to compete against.

Service providers have always done an admirable job of adapting to change and new technologies, so let’s learn why you need to prepare against Starlink and their satellite Internet service and exactly how you can.

Why Compete Against Starlink?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’m betting on the jockey, not the horse?”. If so, that phrase could not be more applicable to this situation. If we look at Elon Musk’s history, we see multiple occasions when the idea he brings to the table is scoffed at and dismissed only to be an industry-leading idea a number of years later.

I could cite his Solar City idea where he envisioned all homes to be retrofitted with solar panel roofs to take advantage of a more renewable energy source. That outlandish idea has now helped Musk find himself handsomely positioned as one of the market leaders in the solar storage, solar panel, and converter market (all components of his solution).

Beyond Solar City, an obvious example of his ability to disrupt a market would be the crown jewel of his companies, Tesla. The thought of not only making an affordable electric vehicle that performs well, looks good, and delights the customer, but also establishing nationwide infrastructure in the form of charging stations is a large enough goal to make even the biggest thinkers shutter.

That idea is now a reality.

So when the “jockey” of Elon Musk enters the “horse” of the telecommunication industry, it would be wise to take notice.

He is breaking into the broadband market with Starlink, a satellite-supported broadband service that is looking to sell VoIP and video services in the near future.

And Starlink isn’t just creeping in the door of the broadband market, they are kicking the door down. In the recent RDOF Auction, Starlink (under the bidding name of SpaceX) won $9.2 billion in funding.

Even though Starlink is still in its Beta phase, that $9.2 billion will be able to pay for a large number of terminals and satellites that will support their service in the future.

Starlink has also asked the FCC to allow for mobile operations so they will be able to service planes, trains, and automobiles. Partnerships are coming with Service Providers and they are on track to be fully operational by year-end.

And Service Providers aren’t their only partners. Recently, Starlink has partnered with Microsoft and Google to link their data centers directly to Starlink’s satellite networks. They are creating an ecosystem that brings more capabilities, not just Internet access.

So, what does this mean for rural and smaller regional Service Providers? With Starlink having its sights set on the underserved/unserved communities of rural America, the very communities smaller service providers provide connection to right now, how can they compete?

How to Compete Against Starlink 

If you’re now convinced that Starlink could be a viable threat to your business, there are a few steps that you can take to start preparing to compete.


1. Understand the Current State of Your Network

It’s hard to understand where you should go when you aren’t exactly sure where you’re at. A great way to get a fully transparent picture of your network health, network capabilities, and overall network performance would be a network assessment. For rural operators who own a HFC network, we would recommend completing a targeted plant sweep along with a CMTS Saturation Assessment. These two tools will give you a deep understanding of the state of your plant at a fraction of the cost of many other assessments.

For operators who own a fiber network, an IP Network Assessment might be the right choice for you. There is also a Headend (HE) Assessment that would allow you to take an in-depth look at the brains of your network and see how it is impacting the totality of your plant.

2. Put Your Network Plans on Paper First

Starting a network upgrade with designing and planning the solution first would be like starting a road trip without a map. If you aren’t able to design your upcoming expansion in-house, leverage an outside firm to draw up a detailed map of how your network will be laid out and what network elements will be installed to help you achieve increased speed for your subscribers.

During this phase, it is also important to start discussing the details of possible solutions that you can implement following the design phase. Finding a trusted advisor who can help you get to the network speeds you desire while remaining on budget is crucial to both the success of your network expansion and the speed at which you can complete it for your subscribers. 

3. Break Ground On Your New Solution

With your research done and the design finished, it’s time to start implementing your solution. At this stage, one of the biggest hurdles to implementation is usually the lack of staff that can break away from their day-to-day job of maintaining to install the new solution. If this is the case for your network, a reasonable solution might be a staff assist option from an outside firm. Allow the firm to bring their experts on-site, install the solution, and test it to make sure it is working correctly; all without the headaches related to staffing issues.

How to Start Competing

If you are ready to get started on your network upgrade to compete with Starlink and others, let's get together for 30 minutes to discuss your options for moving forward. CCI has over 60 years of experience designing, building, optimizing, and operating telecommunication networks, and our industry experts would be happy to share prior experiences as well as best practices with you.

Visit us at if you are interested in learning more about how to take your network to the next level for you and your subscribers.