Starlink says it has installed its first-ever community gateway in Unalaska, on a far-flung Alaska island that’s home to one of the most important fishing ports in the U.S.
The company on Friday announced on X, formerly Twitter, that its “first community gateway is providing Gigabit connectivity — up to 10 Gbps today! — on the remote island of Unalaska, Alaska.”
Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX owned by Elon Musk, did not return emails seeking comment.
The system, built in the hills above the city of Unalaska, consists of four white, spherical antennas, according to a photo on Starlink’s X page. The 6-foot-wide spheres receive the signal from the Starlink satellites, said Emmett Fitch, who owns OptimERA, an internet service provider in the community of 4,000.
Fitch said his company owns a cell-and-microwave tower near the community gateway. Along with other hardware, the tower distributes the signal from Starlink around town. Fitch said 10 gigabits for the entire community is far more than Unalaska needs.
He said the Starlink gateway was completed in recent weeks. Starlink satellites orbit Earth in chains, beaming the signal between them and sending it to the community gateway as they pass overhead.
The gateway is helping deliver much faster internet speeds to his customers’ cellphones and computers, he said.
“What Starlink is bringing to the scene is cost-effective, robust service that will drive better pricing and help people get better connected,” Fitch said.
Fitch said the station is akin to a giant version of the small terminals that many rural Alaskans have installed outside their houses in recent months to get Starlink internet. The tablet-sized dishes have reshaped internet delivery in the state by providing thousands of broadband connections to homes and businesses at relatively low costs.
GCI connected Unalaska with fiber-optic cable late last year. Fiber is considered the superior internet source for its speed, capacity and reliability, but it’s prone to failure too. A cable cut by sea ice in the Arctic Ocean in June disrupted life in northern Alaska communities. It was only recently repaired.
Fitch said the Starlink gateway can provide redundancy to fiber, meaning another internet source to make sure the island never loses service.
Fitch said he’s working with another company, Alaska Tribal Spectrum, in an effort that could potentially lead to more community gateways being installed in other Alaska communities.
Jim Berlin, general manager for Alaska Tribal Spectrum, said the nonprofit is a consortium of tribes working with OptimERA to distribute wireless broadband and cell service to about 60 villages starting next year.
The Alaska Tribal Network will rely on internet from Starlink satellites and other high-speed satellites, a statement from the company said.
The company will install wireless radio towers in villages, distributing a 2.5-gigahertz signal with broadcast licenses for tribes provided under a Federal Communications Commission program, he said. The coverage area will include Western, Southcentral and Southeast Alaska, he said.
Relatively large rural communities such as Bethel, population 6,300 in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, could also receive Starlink’s community gateways if needed, Berlin said.