The squarial, made famous by satellite operator BSB in the early 1990s is making a comeback, with a new generation of square dishes set to return to rooftops.
The concept is being revived by SpaceX, the company behind the Starlink satellite internet platform with squarials giving households access to high speed internet, instead of satellite TV.
Starlink provides users in the UK and Ireland with an alternative to mobile and fixed-line broadband services, which are often lacking, slow or unreliable in rural areas. The service is provided by chains of small satellites orbiting the earth, made famous for their post-launch “trains”, visible after sunset.
Its new square dishes replace its original round dish, and weigh about half the amount of the original dishes. Designed for use in extreme temperatures, the dish can operate in temperatures down to -30° C and as high as 50° C. It is completely waterproof. The new dish features a 3×3 MU-MIMO router. This means it can transmit three separate bandwidth streams to three different devices in a home. It’s also cheaper to manufacture than Starlink’s first generation dish. The dish benefits from improved fixture options.
SpaceX says that users of its service can expect download speeds of up to 200 Mbps. Latency is as low as 20 milliseconds. Upload speeds are around 13 Mbps.
The original squarial
Squarials first became a common sight in the UK following the launch of BSB in 1990. The original BSB Squarial was designed to receive satellite TV from the Marcopolo satellite. But commercial pressures forced BSB to merge with Sky to form BSkyB later that year. As a result, broadcasts via Marcopolo were discontinued. Going forward, BSkyB invested in broadcasts through the Astra satellite system, received via Sky’s round satellite dishes. That left scores of redundant Squarials on walls and rooftops.
Incidentally, any surviving BSB Squarial is not suitable for Starlink reception.
Image: The original BSB Squarial (left) and the new Starlink square dish (right). [Starlink promotional image]