SpaceX – Starlink

Starlink is a SpaceX project that aims to bring global internet access to the world. It will do this by initially launching over 4,000 satellites into VLEO (very-low-eath-orbit) with plans to bring this number up to 12,000; which would give a total bandwidth of 240,000 Gbps. At this stage, however, it is unknown what speeds an average user would receive.

To receive a signal from Starlink, you will have to use a special antenna that will set you back between $100 to $300, called a phased array antenna. This will need to be placed outside with a direct line of sight with the sky to receive a signal (on your home rooftop; top of your car; on top of a train, bus, boat, or any other vehicle).

Monthly prices are expected to be a market competitive, so should be under $50 a month for high-speed low latency internet access.

So what does Starlink bring that current fiber internet technology does not? Well, light travels through fiber optic cables up to 50% the speed of light and cost a lot of money to put in the infrastructure as well as installing the required repeaters to boost diminishing signals. With Starlink, you will only have the initial cost of sending the satellites into orbit (~$11 billion) which have a life expectancy of 5 years, for global internet coverage with faster speeds. That’s a pretty good deal. Which is why other competitors are trying to jump into the same types of projects.

What is left to do before I can sign up for a Starlink service?

Well, it is still early days so a lot of testing needs to be completed; software needs to be written to handle satellite communication as well as user communications; factories need to be set up to construct the high number of satellites required. SpaceX also needs to launch at least 800 satellites into orbit before the service can commence. The service would improve over time as more satellites are added to the network. The first 800 satellites are expected to be in orbit in 2021 or 2022. The full system in place with over 4,000 satellites in 2029.

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