If Billionaire Elon Musk, best known for his pioneering entrepreneurial exploits has his way, he will be your next Internet Service provider (ISP).
The billionaire entrepreneur is launching satellites into space, and promising to deliver high-speed broadband internet to as many users as possible.
When you think of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, chances are good that you also think of his electric car company Tesla or his space-exploration venture SpaceX (to say nothing of his history of stirring up controversy on social media, or smoking weed with Joe Rogan). Maybe you just know him as the richest person on Earth, having passed Jeff Bezos to take the top spot a month ago.
Before long, something else might come to mind when you think of Musk: a venture called Starlink that seeks to sell internet connections to almost anyone on the planet by way of a growing network of private satellites orbiting overhead.
After years of development within SpaceX — and after securing nearly $885.5 million in grant funds from the Federal Communications Commission at the end of 2020 — Starlink’s progress seems to be accelerating in 2021. In January, after about three years’ worth of successful launches, the project surpassed 1,000 satellites delivered into orbit. Earlier in February, Musk’s company disclosed that Starlink now serves more than 10,000 customers. Now, the service is in the process of expanding preorders to even more potential customers, with people currently living without access to high-speed internet as one of the top priorities.
Technically a division within SpaceX, Starlink is also the name of the spaceflight company’s growing network — or “constellation” — of orbital satellites. The development of that network began in 2015, with the first prototype satellites launched into orbit in 2018.
In the years since, SpaceX has deployed over 1,000 Starlink satellites into orbit across more than 20 successful launches. In January, for its first Starlink mission of 2021, SpaceX launched 60 satellites into orbit from Kennedy Space Center using the landable, relaunchable Falcon 9 orbital rocket. Subsequent launches, including four more in February — two of which have already been completed successfully — will bring the total number of satellites launched to 1,265.
“Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge,” the Starlink website reads. “Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable.”
All you need to do to make the connection is set up a small satellite dish at your home to receive the signal and pass the bandwidth on to your router. Starlink offers an app for Android and iOS that uses augmented reality to help customers pick the best location and position for their receivers.
Starlink’s service is only available in select regions at this point, but the service now boasts more than 10,000 customers, and the coverage map will continue to grow as more satellites make their way into the constellation. Eventually, Starlink hopes to blanket the entire planet in a usable high-speed Wi-Fi signal.
How fast is Starlink’s internet service?
“Users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50 to 150 megabits per second and latency from 20 to 40 milliseconds in most locations over the next several months,” Starlink’s website says, while also warning of brief periods of no connectivity at all. “As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.”
What does Starlink cost?
Starlink has begun accepting preorders from customers interested in joining the company’s “Better Than Nothing” beta program. The cost of the service is billed at $99 per month, plus taxes and fees, plus an initial payment of $499 for the mountable satellite dish and router that you’ll need to install at home.