Digital Trends

SpaceX Starlink beta: What it is and when you can get it?

A number of companies are hoping to use orbits fleets of satellites to deliver internet connectivity around the globe. Starlink’s beta program is available albeit with caveats to note.

Image: iStock/elen11

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the vast gulf that is the digital divide across the U.S; especially in outlying areas. The FCC estimates that about 19 million Americans are without “access to fixed broadband service at threshold speeds” and approximately one-quarter of the people in rural communities are without access, according to the commission’s Eighth Broadband Progress Report.

To help shore up gaps in this patchwork of connectivity in the U.S. and beyond, companies are deploying a wide range of innovative strategies. A number of organizations are planning to use droves of satellite whirling overhead to beam down internet connectivity to Earth from orbit. This approach is being championed most notably by SpaceX Starlink with CEO Elon Musk at the helm and a beta version of the capabilities is available with caveats.

So what is Starlink, how’s the beta version program and when can people potentially sign up?

What is Starlink?

Starlink’s orbiting internet-blasting satellites has made plenty of headlines in the last year as a result of peculiar streaks in the nighttime sky, dismay among astronomers and more. Compared to “traditional satellite,” the Starlink website says its fleet orbits the Earth at a distance 60 times closer and this results “in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite internet.”

Moreover, Starlink says its satellite delivery system has comparative advantages to ground-based infrastructure and this “unbounded” approach allows the company to “deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable.”

But why pack dozens of satellites onto a launch vehicle and blast these units into space rather than say burying miles of fiber and constructing towers on Earth? The answer is a complex grab bag of basic supply-and-demand economics and business solvency considered alongside emergent technologies in a burgeoning market.

From remote Canadian villages to sub-Saharan Africa and polar regions, Bill Menezes, director analyst with Gartner Research, said the cost of extending traditional terrestrial broadband networks to these remote areas is “huge.”

In terms of profitably delivering broadband, satellite-delivered connectivity is the “only feasible option” in some areas, Menezes explained.

“Even though launching a satellite to cover, say, polar regions is not cheap, compared to the cost of pushing and operating a fiber-based network out there, there’s no comparison,” Menezes said.

“Better than nothing” beta

As CNET previously reported, Starlink recruited beta testers for its broadband service back in October and referenced Starlink materials shared online, which suggested that beta testers “lower” their “initial expectations” when signing up for the $99 monthly subscriptions and $499 mounting tripod, terminal and router. The Starlink FAQ page similarly says beta testers could expect data speeds and latency to vary over the next few months as well as periods with “no connectivity at all.”

As Starlink continues to increase the number of satellites in orbit, install stations on terra firma and improve its networking software, the company website says that “latency and uptime will improve dramatically.”

When can you sign up for Starlink beta?

The Starlink website has a search bar where people interested in ordering the service can sign up by listing their address, however, the page notes that the service is “available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time” noting that “orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The FAQ page says order fulfillment could take upward of one month or longer “depending on where you are in the ordering queue” and the company will “provide periodic updates on availability” related to “orders in areas that will be serviceable later this year.”

Once a person receives their Starlink Kit (Starlink, Wi-Fi router, power supply, mounting tripod and cables) they can download the Starlink app (iOS or Android) to pinpoint the best location for installation around the home.

A burgeoning market

E-commerce and tech titan, Amazon, has its own internet-blasting satellite program called Project Kuiper which has received FCC approval and plans to deliver broadband from the final frontier. Menezes described this specific market as an area “at the onset of commercialization,” while making note of the growing list of players involved.

“Starlink’s the closest to full commercialization. OneWeb’s right behind it and [in] another year or so, you’re going to have Telesat, based in Canada, doing the same thing, a global, low Earth orbit broadband system,” Menezes said.

“Amazon is planning one, but they’re furthest behind, so it will be interesting to see how they follow in the path of whatever Starlink and OneWeb encounter in their initial years,” Menezes added.

Source link

Related Articles


  1. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew of any widgets I could add to
    my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping
    maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward
    to your new updates.

  2. Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and detailed
    information you provide. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a
    while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Wonderful read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  3. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and
    in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.

  4. Awesome! Its really awesome piece of writing, I have got
    much clear idea about from this article.

  5. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break.
    I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow,
    fantastic site!

  6. Hi colleagues, fastidious piece of writing and good arguments commented at this place, I
    am actually enjoying by these.

  7. Remarkable things here. I’m very glad to look your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m taking a look ahead to contact you.
    Will you please drop me a e-mail?

  8. It’s remarkable designed for me to have a web page, which is useful
    for my know-how. thanks admin

  9. What’s up to all, how is everything, I think every one is getting more from this web page,
    and your views are nice designed for new users.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button