SpaceX’s satellite-based Starlink internet service currently has more than 10,000 users, the company revealed this week.
Elon Musk-led SpaceX invited people to sign up for a public beta of its internet-from-space service in October 2020, pricing it at $99 a month. Those selected also have to pay a $499 one-off payment for the Starlink Kit containing the necessary components to connect to the Starlink satellites. While the company is obviously controlling the customer numbers, increasing confidence in the project — and an expanding satellite constellation —is allowing SpaceX to offer the service to more and more people.
In a recent filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) picked up by CNBC, California-based SpaceX said: “Starlink’s performance is not theoretical or experimental … [and] is rapidly accelerating in real time as part of its public beta program.”
The company said in the filing that trials have demonstrated the system in its present form is “meeting and exceeding 100/20 megabits per second throughput to individual users,” which the company earlier pointed out is “fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare.”
Since deploying its first batch of Starlink satellites in May 2019, SpaceX has steadily expanded the constellation to around 1,000 satellites via regular rocket launches, and plans to deploy around 4,000 by 2024. The company’s latest Starlink mission, which deployed another 60 satellites, took place earlier today, with the next one scheduled for Sunday, February 7.
SpaceX’s long-term goal is to blanket Earth in broadband connectivity, beaming affordable and reliable internet for all, including communities in remote areas that currently have little or no access to decent internet services.
The company learned last December that it’s to receive $900 million in federal funding to help it bring its internet service to rural homes and businesses in the U.S. The FCC announced a total of $9.2 billion in subsidies for 180 companies as part of a Phase I funding round to improve internet services nationwide, with an additional $11.2 billion to be distributed in the next phase.
SpaceX’s Starlink initiative hasn’t been completely smooth sailing. Shortly after its first satellite deployment in 2019, astronomers began to raise concerns about how sunlight reflecting off the satellites could potentially disrupt the work of the stargazing community. SpaceX has signaled its eagerness to find a solution and has been trying out different designs for the satellites, such as fitting them with visors aimed at reducing the bright glare.
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