SpaceX is expanding the beta test for its ambitious Starlink satellite internet constellation, according to an email sent out this week to those would-be early adopters who expressed interest in signing up for the company’s global internet service.
According to CNBC, Starlink’s initial service will cost $99 per month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost for the Starlink kit. This will include a user terminal for connecting to satellites, mounting tripod, and Wi-Fi router. SpaceX’s Starlink project aims to create an internet network made up of thousands of satellites, which will offer high-speed internet wherever you are on the planet.
So far, SpaceX has launched close to 900 satellites, with new ones routinely deployed as part of the payload on SpaceX rocket launches. While nearly 900 satellites is pretty impressive, however, it’s still a tiny fraction of the constellation of thousands of small satellites in low-Earth orbit that will be needed for the Starlink project to live up to its promise. It began quietly beta testing this summer.
In the meantime, SpaceX tells beta participants that they shouldn’t expect a world-beating service right away. The beta is referred to as the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test. The company puts its cards on the table by acknowledging that, with this name, “we are trying to lower your initial expectations. Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.”
Over time, Starlink could turn out to be a big moneymaker for SpaceX. While the cost of installing the network is reportedly $10 billion or more, SpaceX believes it could earn as much as $30 billion per year. To put that figure in perspective, it’s upwards of 10 times the annual revenue of SpaceX’s world-famous and heavily publicized rocket business. It could also prove a game-changer in terms of providing internet access to rural parts of the world that currently have spotty or zero internet access.
Earlier this month, SpaceX inked a partnership with Microsoft to connect Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing network to the Starlink network.
Digital Trends has reached out for comment from SpaceX on the Starlink beta program. We will update this post when we hear back.
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