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Elon Musk plans space internet for Iran after achieving global coverage

·2-min read
A live map showing the position of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites on 20 September, 2022 (SatelliteMap.Space)
A live map showing the position of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites on 20 September, 2022 (SatelliteMap.Space)

Elon Musk has said that he will seek exemptions from Iranian sanctions to deliver his Starlink space-based internet service to the Middle Eastern country.

The SpaceX boss said the latest launch of satellites means that Starlink has now achieved coverage across all seven continents, though regulatory issues and sanctions mean that some countries remain without access.

“Starlink is now active on all continents, including Antarctica,” Mr Musk tweeted.

“Starlink will ask for an exemption to Iranian sanctions.”

When asked by one of his followers, human rights activist Agustín Antonetti, if he could “do the same for other countries under a dictatorship like Cuba”, the tech billionaire replied: “OK.”

The latest Starlink launch, which took place on Monday, brought the total number of active satellites in low-Earth orbit above 3,000, which currently serve more than half a million customers worldwide.

The high-speed internet service is primarily designed for people living in remote regions who lack access to traditional telecommunications infrastructure, however it has proved useful in areas impacted by natural disasters and conflict.

After Russia destroyed internet services in Ukraine during its invasion in February, SpaceX sent more than 20,000 Starlink terminals to provide Ukrainans with access to the network.

The $60 monthly subscription fee to access Starlink is currently waived for users in the country, allowing people to get online for free.

Light blue shows Starlink availability as of 20 September, 2022, medium blue shows waitlist and dark blue is ‘coming soon’ (SpaceX)
Light blue shows Starlink availability as of 20 September, 2022, medium blue shows waitlist and dark blue is ‘coming soon’ (SpaceX)

Iran is frequently hit by internet outages, with Netblocks reporting that Tehran and other cities were knocked offline for more than three hours last Friday amid widespread demonstrations.

Strict sanctions are currently in place against Iran as a result of the country’s nuclear activity, preventing US companies from doing business there.

These sanctions were eased in 2015 under President Barack Obama as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however they were reimposed in 2018 when President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement.