If it wasn’t cool enough that SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of privatized space exploration, they will eventually be offering satellite-based internet services in the future as well. Known as Starlink, the company’s upcoming broadband offering might be a bit closer than you think. As part of an expansion of their beta testing process, SpaceX is now sending e-mails to prospective customers who signed up with interest in the service. Dubbed the “Better Than Nothing Beta” in the emails, the service expansion will cost end-users $99 a month in addition to a one-time $499 setup fee.
Though satellite-based internet service is not new, SpaceX is one of a few companies pushing forward with newer technology that aims to eliminate the headaches and issues that plagued earlier implementations of the technology. As a person who lives in the swamps of the Southeastern United States, I am fairly familiar with traditional satellite internet as conventional DSL, cable, and fiber options were never available locally. To put it simply, things sucked. The price was incredibly high, including exorbitant monthly fees and initial setup costs, though the actual service was much worse. Crippling latency and the inability to send data out of the home without dial-up service was common.
Starlink promises low latency in the 20ms-40ms range along with solid broadband transmission speeds. Customers have been told to expect speeds in the range of 50Mbps to 150Mbps while the company works on the service, along with unexpected outages. It was not made clear if the high speeds are only limited to downstream transmissions or if upstream data travel would also be at a high speed. It is typical of many North American internet service providers to offer incredibly low upload speeds alongside fast downloads.
Should SpaceX get all the kinks worked out during the beta period, Starlink could be a godsend for folks living in rural areas that have been historically underserved by conventional internet service providers and could help jumpstart economic growth as more commerce shifts into the online space.