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Starlink via Fiber Optics to Multiple Buildings

Background

Internet connectivity has become a necessity for most businesses and individuals. However, there are still many areas without reliable internet access, especially in rural and remote locations. Starlink aims to provide high-speed internet access to these areas using a network of low Earth orbit satellites. The Starlink system is designed to be an affordable and reliable solution for Internet connectivity in areas where traditional Internet service providers (ISPs) are not available or are too expensive. 

Customers Requests

One of our customers sought to connect multiple buildings located over a large area, including a school, a library, and a community center. They required a seamless and reliable connection that could effectively extend Starlink’s coverage to each building, enabling smooth communication, data transfer, and other online activities among the faculty and staff. Each location has a WiFi router installed, with the distance ranging from 900~1600 ft to the Starlink.

Challenges

Starlink routers are typically designed for wireless communication with the satellites.  Unlike traditional WiFi routers, they do not provide Ethernet ports, which makes it difficult to expand the network to multiple locations. Workstations that require a reliable and high-speed Internet connection for tasks such as video conferencing, large file transfers, or other data-intensive activities may face limitations without Ethernet connectivity.

Moreover, extending the service to multiple buildings may require additional wiring or cabling solutions to connect the terminal to the routers or other network equipment in each building. The distance between these locations can span several hundred meters or more, and traditional Ethernet solutions typically have limitations regarding distance capabilities (usually limited to 100 meters or 328 ft).

Solution: Expand Starlink over Fiber Optic Cables

So, why extend Starlink over fiber optic cables? Firstly, fiber optic cables provide significantly higher bandwidth to handle large amounts of data at blazing-fast speeds. Secondly, they can transmit data over much longer distances (up to 20km or more) without signal degradation, ideal for connecting multiple buildings in a large area. Thirdly, these cables do not emit electromagnetic signals that can be easily intercepted,  which can be more susceptible to eavesdropping. Moroever, fiber optic cables are not susceptible to corrosion or rust, and they’re resistant to environmental factors such as moisture and temperature fluctuations, contributing to reliable network performance over the long term.

To implement Starlink via fiber, the following equipment is necessary:

  • Ethernet Adapter: It allows the Starlink dish to connect to the fiber optic switch.
  • Fiber Optic Switch: A switch acts as the central hub to connect multiple fiber cables. It facilitates seamless communication between the buildings, enabling effortless data transmission and improved network performance.
  • Fiber Media Converters: They’re used to convert the optical signals transmitted through fiber optic cables into Ethernet signals compatible with the local network infrastructure, eliminating the need for a complete overhaul.
  • BiDi SFP Modules: These modules are used to connect the fiber optic cables to the media converters and switch. They enable bi-directional communication over a single fiber, saving cost and time.
  • Direct-Burial Fiber Cables: The backbone of the solution, the fiber optic cable, connects various network equipment between the buildings, ensuring high-speed data transfer. 100% factory-terminated with connectors already attached, these cables can be easily deployed between buildings without the need for extensive splicing. Surrounded by a steel armored strength member, they can be buried directly underground without the need for a conduit or innerduct, ideal for use in pipelines, oil and gas fields, heavy industrial sites

The first step involved mapping out the buildings’ locations and determining the shortest possible route for laying the fiber optic cables between the buildings. Factors like obstacles, potential signal deterioration, and deployment costs were carefully considered. Where possible, underground trenches need to be dug to house the cables. In areas where underground cabling was impractical, the fiber optic cables can be mounted on poles, using appropriate support brackets.

To connect the Starlink router to a fiber optic switch, you need to power off the router, disconnect the dish cable from the bottom, and then connect the Ethernet adapter via the USB port. Next, plug the dish cable into the corresponding port of the Ethernet adapter. Finally, connect an Ethernet cable from its Ethernet port to one of the RJ45 uplink ports on the fiber optic switch.

Once the adapter settings are configured, you can proceed with extending Starlink’s connectivity to the desired locations. First, insert a BiDi SFP module into the fiber optic switch and make sure it aligns properly. Secondly, connect the pre-installed fiber optic cable to the SFP module and gently push it in until it clicks into place. Connect the other end of the fiber cable to the second BiDi SFP module. Thirdly, plug the second SFP module into the SFP slot of the fiber media converter, and make sure it’s securely seated in the slot. Finally, connect the WiFi router to the media converter using an Ethernet cable, and power on the system. Repeat the same steps to establish the network connections to the other two buildings.



Topology

Results

The fiber optic infrastructure provided a reliable and high-speed internet connection to all buildings, overcoming the limitations of a wireless-only setup. Users in each building now had access to the global reach of Starlink, enhancing collaboration and information exchange across the organization.

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