Technology

SpaceX, to keep Starlink pricing simple, will end beta when the network is “reliable”.

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Enlarge /. SpaceX Starlink logo.

The Starlink broadband network will likely stay at one price instead of offering different levels of service, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said yesterday.

“I don’t think we’re going to offer tiered pricing to consumers. We’re going to try to keep this as simple and transparent as possible. So there are currently no plans to tier consumers,” Shotwell said, according to a CNBC Items. Shotwell spoke during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2021 conference.

SpaceX charges $ 99 per month for Starlink’s beta service and $ 499 upfront for the user terminal / satellite dish, mounting tripod, and router. Other satellite and terrestrial broadband services usually charge different prices for different speeds. Many of them have a data cap and additional fees for those who exceed the limit.

Even if SpaceX has only one price for most customers, it will likely offer a cheaper rate to people on low incomes. SpaceX is seeking an “Eligible Telecommunications Provider” designation that will be used to reimburse the FCC’s Lifeline Program when offering discounts on telecommunications services to low-income individuals. In its application, SpaceX announced to the FCC that it will “provide Lifeline to qualified, low-income consumers and publicize the availability of Lifeline services in a manner that is appropriate to reach those likely to qualify for the service . “

The costs for the user terminal decrease

The one-time cost of $ 499 is an obstacle for folks on a tight budget, but it’s actually less than what SpaceX pays to make the terminals. CNBC wrote:

According to Shotwell, SpaceX has made “great strides in reducing the cost” of the Starlink user terminal, originally about $ 3,000 each. She said the terminals are now under $ 1,500 and SpaceX “just released a new version that saved about $ 200 in costs”.

SpaceX believes the cost per terminal can be reduced to “a few hundred dollars” over the next year or two, Shotwell said.

The beta speeds announced by Starlink are 50 Mbit / s to 150 Mbit / s with a latency of 20 ms to 40 ms. Speeds will hit 300Mbps later this year and be available for “most of the world” by the end of 2021, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in February.

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The beta will not end until the network is reliable

Two months ago, SpaceX opened pre-orders for the Starlink service with limited slots in each geographic region, expected to be available in the second half of 2021. According to Shotwell, SpaceX has a long way to go before moving from beta to general availability, as Cablefax reported:

Starlink does not have a timeline for exiting beta as there is still a long way to go before its broadband service is available and able to accommodate a large customer base. “We still have a lot of work to do to make the network reliable. We still have drops, not necessarily because the satellites are in the sky,” said SpaceX President / COO Gwynne Shotwell at the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum on Tuesday . “We’ll stick with it until the network is reliable, great, and we’re proud of it.”

While Starlink is already faster than its limited Internet options in many poorly served areas, SpaceX is warning users to expect “short periods of no connectivity” during the beta.

Musk has said that Starlink will not be able to serve a large percentage of customers in densely populated areas “because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough,” and Shotwell repeated that point yesterday. While major ISPs like Comcast and AT&T offer low-cost services in cities, SpaceX “cannot move as much bandwidth in this limited area” with its low-earth orbit satellites, according to Cablefax.

Plan to “Serve Every Rural Household”

SpaceX plans extensive coverage in the rural US, as Via Satellite wrote:

“I know my constellation will be able to support every rural household in the United States in five years,” Shotwell said, estimating about 20 million rural households. “We also carry out these analyzes for other countries. Our focus is initially on the USA because [customers] speak english and they are close. If you have a problem with your dish, we can have one delivered quickly. But we definitely want to expand this ability beyond the US and Canada. “

SpaceX would need another government license to serve 20 million homes. The company has an FCC license to provide up to 1 million user terminals and has requested approval from the FCC to provide up to 5 million. SpaceX also asked the FCC for permission to use Starlink terminals in automobiles, ships, and airplanes.

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Steven Gregory