Ukraine uses over 11,000 internet links bought by Poland

Anatolii Siryk/PAP/UKRINFORM

Thousands of the Starlink internet terminals used by Ukrainian forces in their war with Russia were bought by Poland.

Poland's commissioner for cybersecurity, Janusz Cieszynski, told Bloomberg that Poland had bought 11,700 Starlink terminals for Ukraine, of which 5,000 were bought by state-owned fuels firm PKN Orlen.

There are more than 20,000 of the terminals now operating in Ukraine.

The terminals, made by a company owned by Elon Musk, enable Ukrainian soldiers to operate drones, receive important intelligence, and communicate with each other where there are no other secure internet sources.

The compact systems, which consist of a small antenna and a 35-centimetre terminal, also provide internet coverage for Ukrainian NGOs and civilians as well as supporting infrastructure nationwide.

Each device, which can be battery operated, connects to one of Musk's SpaceX satellites enabling WiFi use, essential where Russia has targeted Ukrainian communications infrastructure.

Musk is the biggest private shareholder in SpaceX and responded positively to a request by Ukraine's minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, for access to Starlink services at the start of the war.

However, about 85 percent of the 20,000 terminals in use in Ukraine have been entirely or partly financed by external sources, including by the US, British and Polish governments, as SpaceX has confirmed in correspondence with the Pentagon. The same countries have also paid for around 30 percent of internet connections, which according to SpaceX cost USD 4,500 a month per unit for the most advanced service.

Ukraine's Ukrinform news agency reported on October 5 that among the donors are USAID, Poland, the EU and private companies.

"SpaceX promised to cover the costs of servicing terminals bought by Orlen," while the Polish government "covers the full cost of the services," which comes to about USD 50 per month per device, Cieszynski said.

In April, The Washington Post reported that the biggest single payer for the terminals was Poland. Each unit costs USD 1,500 - USD 2,500, though ensuring constant connections costs much more. SpaceX has said it pays for about 70 percent of the services used by Ukraine, offering all the terminals in that country the best possible option, valued at USD 4,500 per month even though most have contracts signed only for the USD 500-per-month service option.

Ukraine's commander-in-chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, told Musk in July that about 500 terminals a month are destroyed in the conflict and requested a further 6,200 units as well as 500 a month to cover losses.