Starlink, a global network of satellites designed by SpaceX to envelop the earth and provide high-speed broadband connection to internet users across the globe, made public that more than 700,000 users have expressed interest in its Beta service in the three months since its launch.
Envisioned by SpaceX’s charismatic CEO Elon Musk, Starlink was launched in 2015 as a means to harness the latest satellite technology to provide high-speed, broadband internet service to populations around the world, particularly those in regions where geographic and climatic factors limit the viability of traditional internet services.
After going public with its “Better than Nothing Beta” last October, users have flocked to the service to register for the beta connection at a rate of only $99 per month. Starlink plans to continue to expand the availability of its beta service domestically and internationally. Users can also purchase a starter kit for $499, which includes a user terminal, router, and tripod.
During the Beta period, said Ari Stiegler, managing partner at VC firm Flux Capital, users can anticipate data speeds from 50 to 150 mb/s and latency from 20 to 40 ms in many locations.
“Even in beta, Starlink’s novel service has already begun to change the way people receive wireless internet connection,” said Stiegler, an investor in Starlink’s parent company, SpaceX, and satellite technology firm Momentus. “With the successful rollout of this beta service, we have reached a tipping point in the global provision of internet services. Satellite-driven wireless internet connection is no longer theoretical, it’s now being done. Starlink believes this model could bring in more than $30 billion a year.”
Starlink’s model, Stiegler explained, will provide high-speed/low latency internet access to locations in which access has long been limited or non-existent. By positioning its satellites in low-Earth orbit, Starlink is able to provide connections at significantly lower latency—meaning faster streaming, videoconferencing, and gaming for customers around the world.
“Latency is measured in terms of the amount of time it takes to send information up to a satellite and back down to earth” said Stiegler. “By placing the Starlink constellation 60 times closer to Earth’s surface than traditional internet satellites, Starlink has achieved low latency rates, improved space-based internet outcomes, and taken a major stride forward in this winner-take-all market.”
As of February 2020, Stiegler explained that Starlink has already launched more than 1000 satellites, which currently provide internet connection to users signed onto the company’s beta tests. While the current positioning of the satellites means the connection is strongest in high latitudes, the expansion of the Starlink network—projected to encompass more than 42,000 satellites by 2027, according to Stiegler—will help usher in an unprecedented expansion of global internet connection capabilities.
“SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are currently placing more than 60 satellites into orbit with each launch,” said Stiegler. “This impact will be compounded by Starlink’s forthcoming expansions to the European Union, Japan and India. Already available in the US, UK, and Canada, this announcement would continue to position Starlink as a leader in wireless internet provision in the 2020s.”
Stiegler said, though, that Starlink typifies a business model that provides material benefits to both investors and consumers alike.
“Given the considerable costs associated with establishing and scaling a business of this nature, Starlink operates within a winner-take-all paradigm, in which gaining a first-mover advantage is paramount,” said Stiegler. “With more than 1,000 satellites already in orbit, Starlink has demonstrated this advantage, and shown why space remains the largest total addressable market.
“For consumers, though, Starlink offers high-speed internet connections for remote and rural communities,” he continued. “With the expansion of its ‘Better than Nothing Beta,’ Starlink is already becoming an indispensable resource to communities whose access to the web was previously limited.”