Starlink’s Internet Anywhere Via SpaceX Satellite: $99/month

It’s the ultimate Covid product: fast, low-latency internet anywhere on the planet for just $99 per month, plus a $500 up-front payment to get the connection kit.

As long as you’re OK with occasional blackouts.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is just starting to kick off commercialization of its Starlink satellite-based internet service, and while it will initially be only available in northern U.S. and Canada, ultimately the up to tens of thousands of Starlink satellites will be able to deliver fast gap-free internet all over the world. The system has already been in testing but now the company is expanding it in a “Better Than Nothing” beta test.

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$500 gets you the Starlink terminal: a mini satellite dish with a mounting tripod and a WiFi router.

And $99/month gets you between 50 and 150 MB/s with 20-40 milliseconds of latency.

Since average broadband connection speed in the U.S. is just 18.7 MB/s, this is actually very good. Especially because many potential customers might be in rural areas where connectivity is much, much slower. (Half the people get below-average speeds, of course.) And even in Canada, where the average speed is 42.5 MB/s, many live far outside cities or populated areas and have extremely slow internet connections.

So Starlink is potentially absolutely huge for those who don’t want to live in urban or even suburban areas: an increasing trend in Covid times.

But you will have some issues.

There are only about 800 Starlink satellites currently in operation, and SpaceX’s email warns that there will be “brief periods of no connectivity at all.” No details, however, on how “brief” those will be.

Ultimately, SpaceX has regulatory permission to launch thousands of satellites and has filed for spectrum with the FCC for 30,000 more. So you have to assume that those issue will go away over time, and that speeds will likely improve. Just a taste: a military test in an airplane achieved 610 MB/s via a Starlink satellite in 2019. This is, of course, unlikely to be scalable.

“As you can tell from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations,” the email from the Starlink Team says.

That may be true. But I expect long-suffering potential clients in rural areas are likely to be more excited now than ever before.

Starlink expects to have enough satellites to launch at scale commercially in 2021.