The new satellite broadband service from SpaceX, Starlink, will be expanding its beta program by thousands of additional subscribers, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The beta expansion comes as current beta participants are revealing Starlink speeds in excess of 100 Mbps.
Musk revealed the Starlink beta expansion in a tweet yesterday. Pricing for the beta phase of Starlink was revealed last week as $99 per month with a $499 equipment fee. Beta testers are expected to do self-installs, with the assistance of a Starlink app.
In a sign of the times, most of the info and details of what’s happening with Starlink are revealed through Musk tweets. He has also claimed that speeds and latency will improve and that southern states could start seeing Starlink coverage as soon as January.
Coverage is currently focused on northern territory, due to satellite coverage. Starlink will need many thousands of low earth orbit satellites to cover the entire U.S. As of late October, the company had 895 in orbit, according to the Space Explored website.
Starlink beta speeds are looking promising. A beta tester in Montana posted a Starlink speed test result of 174/33 Mbps on a Reddit forum. The comments section of the post is an interesting read, with many discussing how they feel “trapped” by high-cost, low performing DSL service.
The attention Starlink is receiving now is good timing, considering SpaceX is participating in the RDOF auction, which will award up to $16 billion in support for rural broadband expansion. Access to RDOF funding could help accelerate Starlink plans.
It’s very early in the game for Starlink, especially considering it has less than one tenth of the satellites it needs in orbit for national coverage. If the company manages to reach national coverage, the speeds hold up at scale, and the Starlink beta pricing structure gets more aggressive, it could make for a very interesting competitive dynamic for the broadband industry.