Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a video conference at Mobile World Congress.NACHO DOCE / Reuters

With his word and his thumb writing tweets, he is able to make the value of cryptocurrencies rise and fall; he is seen as a guru and visionary despite his lurch in business. In a Mobile World Congress with few attendees and without much emotion due to the pandemic, the conference, even if it was telematics, by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has been the great attraction. Musk has spoken of his new obsession: filling the sky with satellites with which to provide the Internet to the whole world, especially to the 3.7 billion people who do not have access to the Internet. The tycoon has ensured that his network of satellites, called Starlink, it will have 500,000 users in a year and next month it will have coverage all over the world except in the poles. “The goal is not to go bankrupt,” he said about the project, admitting that those who have tried before have not succeeded.

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Musk’s aura of myth for the technological and digital world was palpable this Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress. Despite having few attendees and despite being a telematic conference from his home in California, the appointment with Musk has filled the conference room, in which there have been queues to enter. The interview with the editor of Mobile World Live, Justin Springham, has lasted half an hour in which, among other things, Musk’s cat has passed in front of the screen. “It was the great conference we were waiting for,” said the presenter. Not surprisingly, Musk is the second richest man in the world according to the magazine Forbes.

The founder of Tesla has shelled the Starlink project. The billionaire sees it as an opportunity to fill the gap between the 5G connection, which needs a lot of infrastructure and which will focus on cities, and fiber optics, whose terrestrial deployment does not reach everywhere. Starlink already brings satellite internet to many parts of the world, as the company has already launched 1,500 devices. But it wants to reach 40,000 satellites orbiting. He calculates that the investment before having a positive cash result will be between 5,000 and 10,000 million dollars and that the subsequent investment will have to be between 20,000 and 30,000 million dollars. The project, in addition to being expensive, is controversial due to the opposition of astronomers, who will see their research work hampered.

The satellite internet system involves a constellation of devices in space, at a shorter distance than usual satellites, which connect with each other in a very short time. “The latency is below 20 milliseconds, similar to fiber and 5G,” he said. The user has a receiver and a satellite dish, and Musk expects prices to go from the current $ 500 for the kit, to about 300 euros, plus 100 euros for the subscription. Starlink already has 69,000 users and is active in 12 countries, and expects to reach half a million users in one year. Musk has explained, without naming names, that the company is in talks with two large telecommunications operators to bring the internet to remote areas. In Spain, it has registered two subsidiaries with the CNMC to offer connections in rural areas.

Asked about his motivation for undertaking such disruptive projects, Musk explained that SpaceX, his space rocket company, was born in 2002 “with the aim of enabling interplanetary travel,” while Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, was founded to make life on Earth more habitable. In SpaceX it has recognized that it is still far from achieving its objective, since rockets are needed that are very quickly reusable. In this sense, he has defended his Starship project, the construction of large spaceships with which he wants to erect “a base on the Moon and a city on Mars.” Musk has defined his mission in one of the bizarre phrases for which he is considered a visionary: “All my work is based on my fundamental philosophy that we do not know the answers that there are or the questions that need to be asked, but that we can expand our consciousness, we will know better what questions to ask to know the universe ”.

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