SpaceX plans to fit laser links to its Starlink satellites so they can beam the internet to planes for in-flight WiFi

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk wants to connect SpaceX’s satellite internet service, Starlink, to airplanes.
  • SpaceX is in talks with airlines about this in-flight internet, a Starlink vice president said, per The Verge.
  • SpaceX would need to connect its Starlink satellites by laser links for the plan to work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX could soon provide in-flight WiFi to airline passengers via its Starlink satellite internet service, The Verge first reported on Wednesday.

Elon Musk’s space company was in talks with commercial airlines to beam Starlink internet to their airplanes, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and commercial sales, said during the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit on Wednesday, per the Verge.

“We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Hofeller said. “We have our own aviation product in development … we’ve already done some demonstrations to date, and looking to get that product finalized to be put on aircraft in the very near future.”

Starlink mainly serves rural communities through its 1,635 low-Earth orbit satellites. A beta kit costs $499 upfront, plus $99 a month for a subscription.

SpaceX plans to use airline antennas, which work in a similar way to existing user terminals but have “obvious enhancements for aviation connectivity,” Hofeller said. The company would design and build tech specific for aircraft, he added.

SpaceX would start connecting each Starlink satellite with laser links that don’t need to bounce off ground stations. This would mean airplanes flying over remote areas, such as oceans, can still offer in-flight internet.

“The next generation of our constellation, which is in work, will have this inter-satellite connectivity,” Hofeller said during the summit, per The Verge.

Hofeller said that low-Earth orbit satellites, including Starlink’s network, would outperform existing geostationary satellites.

“It’s going to be up to the individual airline whether they want to be responsive to that, or if they’re okay with having a system that is not as responsive to their customers’ demand,” he said.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about which airlines they were in talks with.

In March, the space company requested in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it connect moving vehicles, including planes, ships, and large trucks, to Starlink, a constellation which could have up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.

“No longer are users willing to forego connectivity while on the move,” SpaceX director of satellite policy, David Goldman, said in the FCC request.

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SpaceX got FCC permission to fly Starlink satellites at a lower orbit. Rivals who previously objected, including Amazon, say they’re happy with the decision.

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • The FCC has approved SpaceX’s request to fly Starlink satellites at a lower orbit.
  • SpaceX rivals, including Amazon’s Project Kuiper and Viasat, are pleased the FCC put in conditions for Starlink satellites.
  • They had previously filed complaints about the size of the Starlink fleet and possible interference with other satellites.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday approved SpaceX’s request to fly satellites for its Starlink internet service at a lower orbit – but only under certain conditions.

Company rivals including Amazon, Viasat, Hughes Net, and OneWeb previously criticized SpaceX’s request to fly more satellites at a lower orbit. But they told Insider that the FCC’s conditions address their main concerns.

The approval means that SpaceX can eventually lower 2,814 satellites from 1,100 kilometres to 550 kilometres, although these satellites are not yet in orbit. The company already had permission to operate 1,584 satellites at this lower orbit.

Under the approval conditions, SpaceX must record how many times Starlink satellites come close to colliding with other spacecraft, and report it to the FCC every six months. Elon Musk’s aerospace company also must disclose the number of Starlink satellites that re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Those conditions also say Starlink satellites must remain below 580 kilometres to keep away from Amazon’s planned rival internet service, Project Kuiper, and accept signal interference from Project Kuiper’s satellites.

All of these rivals are working to build satellite internet networks from low-Earth orbit satellites, geostationary satellites, or a mix of both. SpaceX currently has more than 1,350 satellites currently in orbit – the most of any of the companies. Amazon’s Project Kuiper hasn’t launched any satellites yet, but plans to have a fleet of 3,236 in total.

SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to have 42,000 Starlink satellites in space by mid-2027.

Competitors had filed various responses to SpaceX’s request for a modification to its licence. Amazon’s Project Kuiper said in January that the change of satellite position would interfere with their own satellites and “smother competition in the cradle.”

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Insider that the FCC’s decision was a “positive outcome” because it “places clear conditions on SpaceX.”

The FCC’s conditions “address our primary concerns regarding space safety and interference, and we appreciate the Commission’s work to maintain a safe and competitive environment in low earth orbit,” the spokesperson said.

Read more: SpaceX is finalizing a massive new funding round. Here’s why investors are clamoring for one of the world’s most valuable startups.

Viasat, which plans on putting 288 satellites into lower orbit by 2026, was particularly concerned about the number of satellites that SpaceX was blasting into space.

Launching more satellites could lead to a greater chance of collision, resulting in more space debris, which could be a “doomsday scenario for space,” Mark Dankberg, ViaSat’s executive chairman and co-founder, told Insider on April 15.

Viasat was pleased the FCC confirmed Starlink satellites must be “reliable and safe,” John Janka, the company’s chief officer of global regulatory and government affairs, told Insider in a statement on Tuesday.

Viasat was also happy that the FCC recognized the need to monitor collision risk that Starlink’s constellation raised, Janka said.

In the filing, the FCC dismissed Viasat’s concerns about the collision risk of Starlink satellites and wrote “SpaceX’s debris mitigation plan is consistent with the public interest.” Viasat said in its statement that it was disappointed with the FCC on this point.

UK satellite company OneWeb, which has 182 satellites in orbit so far, also previously argued that SpaceX’s licence approval would create interference with other satellites.

OneWeb said in a statement to Insider that the FCC’s approval was “a totally different deployment to their original licence,” but it “looks forward to continuing amicable and close in-flight coordination with SpaceX.”

A spokesperson from Hughes, another satellite company that argued against SpaceX’s licence, told Insider the company was still reviewing the FCC order.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX has denied OneWeb’s claim that their satellites almost collided – and accused it of deliberately misleading the press

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • SpaceX denied that a Starlink satellite almost collided with a OneWeb satellite in an FCC filing.
  • OneWeb told the WSJ that Starlink engineers had said they couldn’t do anything to avoid a collision.
  • SpaceX said the companies worked together and OneWeb asked it to turn its collision software off.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has denied rival OneWeb’s claims that their satellites almost collided earlier this month.

SpaceX said the two companies worked together and agreed in a meeting on Tuesday that there was no “close call” or “near miss,” per Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings from the company, first reported by Ars Technica.

It also accused British-owned satellite broadband provider OneWeb of “intensified efforts” to prevent SpaceX from completing a safety upgrade.

This came after Chris McLaughlin, government affairs chief at OneWeb, told The Wall Street Journal in an article published on Monday that a satellite operated by Starlink, the internet arm of SpaceX, came within 190 feet of a OneWeb satellite in early April.

Read more: Bank of America breaks down 6 reasons why under-the-radar space company Avio could see its stock surge more than 100% as the industry rockets towards a $1.4 trillion valuation by 2030

McLaughlin told The Journal that Starlink’s engineers said they couldn’t do anything to avoid a collision and switched off the satellite’s autonomous collision-avoidance system. They did this so OneWeb could maneuver around the Starlink satellite without interference, McLaughlin said.

SpaceX fired back in its ex-parte FCC filing Tuesday, saying OneWeb itself had requested that it turn off its collision-avoidance system temporarily so that it could move its satellite.

According to SpaceX, OneWeb made this decision because OneWeb satellites need more time to coordinate and plan their maneuvers than Starlink satellites require, and the two companies were in communication throughout.

The two companies were working together “in good faith” and OneWeb “chose to publicly misstate the circumstances of the coordination” in The Journal’s article, SpaceX said.

OneWeb did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

SpaceX added that “the probability of collision never exceeded the threshold for a [collision-avoidance] maneuver, and the satellites would not have collided even if no maneuver had been conducted.”

SpaceX said its collision-avoidance system “was and remains fully functional at all times,” and that its satellite had conducted many similar maneuvers in the past in conjunction with OneWeb, “with no issues.”

At the meeting between FCC, OneWeb and SpaceX representatives on Tuesday, the two companies “agreed that they had conducted a successful coordination,” according to SpaceX.

It added that OneWeb offered to retract its previous statements.

Read the original article on Business Insider

OneWeb, a new satellite company from the UK, is going head-to-head with SpaceX’s Starlink to provide a global space broadband service

A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage block and 36 OneWeb satellites blasts off from a launch pad of Vostochny Cosmodrome.
A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage block and 36 OneWeb satellites blasts off from a launch pad of Vostochny Cosmodrome.

  • SpaceX rival OneWeb has expanded its constellation to 146 satellites that beam internet down to Earth.
  • OneWeb’s Chris McLaughlin said the number of satellites Musk and Bezos want to launch is an issue.
  • Launching thousands of satellites is “not a responsible way forward for the next generations,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Space internet provider OneWeb recently blasted 36 satellites into orbit, steadily expanding its constellation in the face of Elon Musk’s Starlink.

The British-owned satellite broadband operator, which was rescued from bankruptcy by the UK government in November, wants to beam internet down to households and businesses across the world from satellites in orbit.

Across the Atlantic, SpaceX is planning exactly the same thing. The only difference is that Musk’s company is way ahead of OneWeb. It currently has around 1,300 satellites at 550 kilometres in orbit and plans to launch 42,000 by mid-2027.

OneWeb plans to have 648 satellites at 1,200 km in orbit to provide a global service. The company’s most recent launch on March 25 took it up to 146 satellites.

“We’re beginning to think less is more,” said Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulation and engagement at OneWeb.

He told Insider that the main issue in the space industry right now is “the sheer number of satellites that Musk and Jeff Bezos want to put up.”

Amazon-founder Bezos hasn’t launched any satellites yet but aims to get a fleet of 3,236 in orbit in the near future for its Project Kuiper.

“[Musk and Bezos] both want to put them up in the same place at 550 km and have nobody else in their way,” McLaughlin said.

Thursday’s launch was the second out of five OneWeb launches this year to deliver internet coverage to the top of the globe down to the 50th degree latitude, according to McLaughlin. This includes Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, the Nordic countries, and northern Europe.

The fifth launch will be in June, when OneWeb aims to provide broadband to the whole of the UK. By mid-2022, areas down to 21 degrees latitude will be covered, McLaughlin said, including the rest of Europe and parts of Africa.

Put in comparison with Starlink, which operates across six countries worldwide, OneWeb seems to lag behind. But the London-based company says its tactics are deliberately slower.

“Do you want the low Earth orbit completely messed up because of collisions between two billionaires satellites?” McLaughlin said. “Or would you prefer a more gradualist approach, like OneWeb is doing?”

The way that the big space companies are launching thousands of satellites is “not a responsible way forward for the next generations to be able to benefit from space,” according to McLaughlin, who added that OneWeb is “adopting a more responsible use of space.”

How OneWeb’s technology works

OneWeb works around a business-t0-business model – it delivers internet service to existing telecommunications companies who then distribute the internet to homes and businesses. OneWeb will leave the pricing for the telecom firms to set because “they know their customers best,” McLaughlin said.

Musk’s SpaceX, on the other hand, targets consumers directly with its satellite internet. So far, it’s gained more than 10,000 users and already plans to connect moving vehicles, such as trucks and planes, to Starlink. Users can set up the $499 Starlink kit, including a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal, from their own home

Read more: SpaceX investor Draper Associates backed futuristic data capture startup Cipher Skin in a $5 million funding round after seeing this pitch deck

“We are not going down the ‘send you a box and tell you to install it’ route,” said McLaughlin. Instead, OneWeb users may have a wifi antenna mounted on their house, rather than a satellite dish.

Like Starlink, OneWeb could be part of the UK’s government’s $6.9 billion Project Gigabit internet plan, which aims to provide faster broadband to more than 1 million homes and businesses in rural areas of the country. SpaceX reportedly took part in discussions with a UK minister on March 22.

McLaughlin confirmed that OneWeb is also included in the plans for Project Gigabit and has “held ministerial and other discussions.”

Neil Masterson said in an interview with CNBC on March 25 that the company “has been speaking to various elements of the government” and other organizations in the UK.

Now that the UK is joining the likes of Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and Canada’s Telesat, McLaughlin said it’s exciting for the British economy to have a slice of the space industry too.

“Who knew that Britain was in the space business?” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How helpful is SpaceX’s customer support when Starlink customers run into problems? Users gave Insider their verdict.

  • Starlink users told Insider how efficient and helpful Starlink’s customer service team was.
  • Some users thought it was quick, but others had long delays and had to cancel Starlink altogether.
  • “My only wish is that [Starlink] was a bit cheaper,” said one customer from Canada.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Starlink users gave Insider mixed responses about the speed and effectiveness of SpaceX’s customer support team when they ran into problems.

Some users said Starlink’s help was quick but others experienced delays, leading to cancellations of the satellite internet service.

Since the launch of its beta test in October, Starlink has accumulated more than 10,000 users worldwide and operates in more than six countries. SpaceX has more than 1,200 satellites in orbit but the goal is to have up to 42,000 by mid-2027.

Starlink’s beta test is called the “Better Than Nothing” beta and SpaceX warned users in an initial email to expect speeds to range between 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 150 Mpbs.

Although users told Insider that setting up the kit is very easy, it’s still possible to run into problems with connectivity.

Rayce Townsend, who is based in Montana, contacted the Starlink team twice via email. He wanted to know whether he could take the kit to Texas and install it there. Starlink told Townsend the service wasn’t yet mobile but he could reapply in Texas for the future.

Townsend said the response was “quick, friendly and thorough.” So far, he’s found Starlink “trouble-free.”

Starlink box with the instructions on top
Starlink box with the instructions on top.

Dan Ventrudo from Northern Ontario, Canada, said he contacted customer service twice about the connection and they were also quick to respond. “My only wish is that [Starlink] was a bit cheaper,” he said.

But Jim Glassford from Michigan wasn’t impressed.

He told Insider: “One thing we were not aware of is the distance restriction for the satellite dish and the power supply. The nearest unobstructed location from the house was about 300 feet and you cannot extend the 100 foot long cable included.”

Glassford got in touch with customer support but it took a week for them to respond. After a bad experience, “we had to cancel,” he said. It’ll cost him $130 to send the kit back to Starlink.

When Gary Konkol from Wisconsin came across technical problems with the power box, Starlink customer support assisted him over several days of emailing. He said it was helpful but there were long delays between messages.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about long delays from its customer service team.

Tom Gooch from Montana said: “I have not needed to contact Starlink customer service. Everything has run flawlessly since I started it up.”

“Elon Musk has a reputation for doing things well and it appears that holds true with Starlink,” Gooch added.

Dishy in rural Montana
Dishy in rural Montana.

Have you got any Starlink tips? Get in touch with this reporter via email: kduffy@insider.com

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SpaceX is betting big on its UK Starlink rollout, and is in talks to become part of the government’s $6.9 billion ‘Project Gigabit’ plan for rural internet

elon musk starlink internet 4x3
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet is spreading fast across the UK.

  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX is in talks with the UK government to provide Starlink internet to rural areas.
  • Starlink could become part of the government’s $6.9 billion “Project Gigabit” internet plan.
  • SpaceX has also signed a deal with a British telecoms company to connect satellites with fibre networks, The Telegraph reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX is in talks with the UK government about expanding its satellite-internet service Starlink to rural areas as part of the nation’s $6.9 billion “Project Gigabit” plan.

SpaceX on Friday met with the UK minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, a person with knowledge of the discussions told CNBC on Monday. The UK’s culture secretary confirmed on Friday that Starlink was being considered for getting internet to hard-to-reach communities in the UK.

On top of Project Gigabit discussions, SpaceX has also signed a deal with British telecoms company Arqiva to build ground stations and infrastructure to connect satellites to fibre networks and servers, a space industry insider told The Telegraph on Monday.

An Arqiva spokesperson declined to comment to Insider. SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The first phase of Project Gigabit was launched on Friday. The project promises to offer faster internet to more than 1 million homes and businesses in remote areas of the UK.

If Starlink and the UK reach a deal over Project Gigabit, Elon Musk’s space company could benefit from government funding to accelerate its coverage in the country. In the US, Starlink won nearly $900 million from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December to deploy internet connection in underserved American communities.

Local internet providers in the US said Starlink shouldn’t get the FCC funding, saying the company uses “unproven” technology.

Starlink rival OneWeb also an option

The UK’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Friday that Starlink was one of the best ways to deliver internet in hard-to-reach communities, though other alternatives were being considered, such as balloons or autonomous aircraft, he said.

But Starlink satellites or those from OneWeb – a UK satellite company that was rescued by the government from bankruptcy in November 2020 – are preferred options because their technology are already in use, Sky reported.

People in the UK who signed up for Starlink began getting their kits at the end of December. Insider spoke to one of the first Starlink users in the UK, Philip Hall, who lives in rural Devon.

He said the service, which offers average speeds of around 150 megabits per second (Mbps), was “absolutely transformational.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth

  • Over the next few decades, Elon Musk is hoping to send 42,000 satellites to space.
  • He is hoping those satellites bring high-speed internet to every corner of the world— from the rainforest to Antarctica.
  • But experts worry that the number of satellites could have a major impact on our planet.
  • Their bright reflections are already blocking the views of astronomers looking for deadly asteroids. If enough of them become disabled, which is already happening, they could also block off space travel for decades.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

You’re looking at 60 satellites hurtling into the sky. And over the next few decades, Elon Musk is hoping to send 42,000 of these satellites to space, 15 times the number of operational satellites in orbit today. It’s part of Starlink, the expansive constellation from Musk and SpaceX that hopes to bring the world low-latency high-speed internet, promising no more buffering and nearly instantaneous internet in every corner of the world. But experts worry it may come at a hefty cost for space exploration.

Nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to the internet, because most internet options require an extensive track of costly underground cables, leaving many rural locations offline. And while satellite internet can reach those areas…

Dave Mosher: Traditional satellite internet is provided by a bus-sized spacecraft that is launched 22,236 miles into space in orbit around Earth.

Narrator: That distance means the satellite can reach places that cables can’t. But since that one satellite is meant to service a lot of people, its data capability is limited, which then limits connection speeds. And that signal has to travel a long way, creating a lot of lag. This is where Elon Musk and SpaceX come in.

Mosher: Starlink is a globe-encircling network of internet-beaming satellites that is trying to get you online no matter where you are in the world.

Narrator: And there’s a rather persuading element for SpaceX as well.

Mosher: Elon Musk has said he’s just trying to grab a small percentage of a trillion-dollar-a-year telecommunications industry around the world. If SpaceX can pull this off, the company could net about $30 to $50 billion a year.

Narrator: Musk and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell say that much money could single-handedly fund the development of Starlink, Starship, and SpaceX’s Mars-launch infrastructure. As of early October, SpaceX has launched more than 700 satellites into orbit, with a plan to release a total of 12,000 over the next five years, half of them by the end of 2024. And Musk wants to add another 30,000 to that, coming to a total of 42,000 satellites circling Earth. All of these satellites will also be much closer, anywhere from 200 to 400 miles above the planet in low-Earth orbit.

Mosher: This reduces the connection delay that is found with traditional internet satellite.

Narrator: Once in orbit, these Starlink satellites will be constantly on the move, which is why so many are necessary.

Mosher: The problem is you have to have many satellites orbiting to make up for the fact that you can’t stay in one spot above the Earth. Because you need several satellites overhead at any one time to cover many users.

Narrator: Every satellite will connect with several others via laser beams, creating something like the network’s backbone. And to actually bring this internet into your home, you’ll need to get a pizza-sized antenna. This phased-array antenna can aim its beam at whatever satellite is overhead, which will maintain an internet signal in your home. But this scheme isn’t without problems. Starlink satellites are bright. They reflect the sunlight and shine it back towards Earth, so they end up looking like bright moving stars. As cool as it may look, that comes with problems.

Mosher: Starlink satellites are most visible in the night sky right before dawn and right after dusk, which is the exact time that astronomers are hunting for near-Earth objects or asteroids, objects that could hit Earth and possibly harm us.

Narrator: And as more satellites go up, so does the likelihood that they’ll interfere with astronomers’ views. Mosher: If Starlink continues to be a problem for these type of sky surveys, we may not have as much notice as we want to detect a near-Earth object and thwart it and prevent it from hitting Earth.

Narrator: Beyond detecting deadly asteroids, the wall of satellites could also obstruct the search for new planets or even black holes.

Mosher: SpaceX realized it had to do something, and it did. It created what’s called a DarkSat, which is a satellite that has all of its shiny parts coated in a very black, dark material.

Narrator: It also tried adding visors to shield those shiny parts from the ground. But unless the satellites are cloaked like a spaceship in “Star Trek,” technology that does not exist, none of this will fully solve the problem. And even if it did, there is a much bigger issue at hand.

Mosher: There’s a concern about space debris, because when you have so many satellites in the closest, tightest, densest orbits around Earth, there’s a higher chance that those satellites could collide with each other or with other satellites.

Narrator: Those crashes would create clouds of debris that can orbit the Earth for years, decades, or even centuries.

Mosher: And that debris can then disable or cause other satellites to crash into each other, creating even more debris, and this problem spirals out of control in an effect called the Kessler syndrome. And if we reach that, then essentially space is too unsafe to access.

Narrator: To be clear, the risk of a runaway Kessler syndrome is very low.

Mosher: But the potential impacts of that are so high that scientists are working very hard to control such an event from ever happening.

Narrator: SpaceX has said its satellites can automatically move out of the way to avoid collisions. But dozens of SpaceX satellites are already disabled and can’t move at all, posing a potential threat. And those concerned with SpaceX’s plans are lobbying the FCC to rein in the company and more strictly regulate low-Earth orbit. And that could make it more expensive and harder to deploy the planned 42,000 satellites. But it doesn’t stop at Starlink.

Amazon’s Kuiper project, OneWeb, China’s Hongyan, and other projects are looking to challenge SpaceX by launching their own global networks of hundreds or thousands of satellites. If they all got their way with little to no regulation, we could end up with 100,000 satellites encasing our planet within the next 10 years, dramatically increasing the risk of blocking off space for everyone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in October 2020. 

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SpaceX’s Starlink: Everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s internet service

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband service that beams down internet from satellites launched into orbit.
  • Since its launch in October, it has more than 10,000 users and operates in more than six countries.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s Starlink.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Elon Musk is inching ever closer to fulfiling his dream of creating super-fast internet around the world, which beams down from satellites in orbit to Earth.

In the past two weeks, SpaceX’s Starlink internet has reached more than 10,000 users worldwide and started offering $99 preorders of the service to more countries and cities on a global scale.

Starlink’s public beta test, known as “Better Than Nothing Beta,” launched in October and has been a big hit with those living in remote areas of northern US, where it was first rolled out.

What’s the hype about Starlink?

SpaceX is building an expansive satellite internet network in space called Starlink

The aerospace company launched its first batch of Starlink satellites into orbit in May 2019. Now, it has over 1,000 working satellites prepped for the service. The goal is to have up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.

The satellites are strapped onto the top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and blasted into orbit, usually releasing 60 satellites per launch.

The goal is to create a high-speed broadband system generated by satellites which envelope Earth and provide internet to people especially in rural areas without connection.

spacex falcon 9 rocket launch starlink internet satellites 13th mission cape canaveral florida beach family GettyImages 1228923231 edit
Spectators watch from Canaveral National Seashore as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites launches.

Starlink isn’t cheap

A subscription to the beta is currently $99 a month. It costs a further $499 for the Starlink kit, which includes a mounting tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the satellites.

On Monday, the company began offering preorders of Starlink to other countries so users can now put down a $100 deposit to get their hands on the service once it becomes available. The deposit will be applied to the amount due on the Starlink kit.

Overall users will be paying $600 upfront for Starlink.

Users the UK are paying £439 for the kit and £89 for the subscription fee. Compared to other internet providers that charge £79 per month for speeds of up to 516 Mbps, this isn’t cheap.

On the SpaceX side, the company in December won $885 million in federal subsidies to expand Starlink, but small internet service providers say this shouldn’t be allowed because Musk’s firm is using “unproven” technology.

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish antenna ufo on a stick roof los angeles california website
A photo of SpaceX’s Starlink user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick,” and they’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting spacecraft.

The fastest speed recorded so far is 215 Mbps

SpaceX said in an email to Starlink beta test subscribers in October that they should expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps, with intermittent outages. But some users are hitting much higher speeds.

A list compiled by Reddit’s Starlink community shows the fastest download speed so far was 209.17 Mbps, recorded in New York. One person in Utah recorded in December their speed test showing 215 Mbps.

Starlink has even reached speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds and snow. Users have been impressed with the terminal heating up enough to melt any snow or frost on top of it.

Snow is melting on the Starlink user terminal
Snow melting on Starlink terminal.

It’s available to preorder in six countries

Starlink was initially operating in parts of the northern USsouthern Canada, and, most recently, in the UK.

On Monday, Starlink began opening up preorders to other parts of the world. 

People in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and parts of the US and Canada – where Starlink is not yet up and running – confirmed on Twitter and Reddit they were able to put down a deposit to get the internet service in mid to late 2021.

Read more: Here’s how many millions of users Starlink may need to break even if it loses $2,000 for every satellite dish it sells, according to experts

More countries could green-light Starlink this year, including Spain, Italy, India, Japan and the Caribbean, according to a report from Teslarati

Insider explained Tuesday how to sign up for the service which works on “first-come, first-served basis.”

starlink satellite internet spacex smartphone phone trcker logo illustration GettyImages 1229328429
A photo illustration of a satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Starlink has helped rural communities get online

SpaceX agreed in October to provide internet to a rural school district in Texas next year via Starlink. A total of 45 families will get internet access in the area, followed by an additional 90 families later on.

Scott Muri, the district’s superintendent, told Insider he agreed to the deal because so many students’ families have “zero internet” and no conventional way to get it.

Then in December, SpaceX connected up Pikangikum First Nation, a remote 3,000-person indigenous community in north-western Ontario, to Starlink. Before the internet service, Pikangikum couldn’t offer higher education or healthcare, and struggled with high suicide rates. Now, they’re able to access everything.

Dave Brown, CEO of FSET, the company that linked up SpaceX and Pikangikum, said in an interview with Insider: “We took a community that was one of the most technologically disadvantaged anywhere in the world. They’ve now become one of the most technologically advanced, yet are still remote, living where they are and not having to move.”

Have you setup Starlink recently? How are you finding it? Get in touch with this reporter via email: kduffy@insider.com.

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The first Starlink user in the UK tells Insider what it’s like going from zero broadband to zippy internet speeds in rural England

elon musk starlink internet 2x1
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service has arrived in the UK.

  • The first person in the UK to reportedly receive the Starlink kit told Insider how he set it up.
  • Philip Hall said his download speed jumped from 0.5 megabits per second to 85 Mbps with Starlink.
  • The router’s range doesn’t stretch that far, but Hall said what Musk has done is “transformational.”
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The UK is the latest country to approve Elon Musk’s Starlink internet as the billionaire reaches closer to his goal of covering Earth with up to 42,000 satellites to create a superfast global broadband service.

Northern US, southern Canada and now parts of Europe are taking part in Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, which costs $99 a month, plus $499 for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the Starlink satellites.

In the UK, this translates to £439 for the kit and £89 subscription fee for 150 megabits per second (Mbps). But this is expensive considering some national providers offer speeds of up to 516 Mbps for £79 per month

Philip Hall, in rural Devon, south-west England, told Insider he was one of the first people in the UK to receive the Starlink kit and test out its internet connection.

Hall has barely any internet connection where he lives, making running a business and contacting the family extremely challenging.

Despite the connection dropping out from time to time and the limited range of the signal, he said Starlink was “a hope and a prayer.”

Here’s how he set up Elon Musk’s internet service in his own home.

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Philip Hall and his partner live in Brithem Bottom, a rural village located in Devon, south-west England. Before Starlink, they were getting 0.5 Mbps download speed and had no reception. Even the government initiative to provide internet fell through. Hall said he felt “powerless.”

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00003
A photo of SpaceX’s user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick.” They’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites.

“Without broadband, you’ve got your arms behind your back,” said Hall, who runs an IT business from home. He said his partner has only been able to access a Microsoft Teams call when every internet device in the house is switched off.

teen checking wifi internet connection

Hall said he subscribed to the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test in early 2019. It was “quite challenging” to enrol in because it was designed for American citizens with zip codes, but he managed his way through.

starlink satellite internet beta sign up website screenshot june 2020
A screenshot of SpaceX’s Starlink beta signup.

He received an email on December 22nd asking if he’d like to place his order and pay £439 for the kit and £89 for the monthly subscription. He said the price included VAT, indicating it possibly came from a UK office.

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00001
A photo of SpaceX’s user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick,” and they’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites.

The confirmation email came through on December 27th and it arrived on New Years Eve. Hall said he “very excitedly” posted a picture of the kit on the Starlink Reddit community but didn’t open the box until the next day because he was with his family.

The Starlink kit arrived to Hall's house on New Year's Eve

Within an hour of opening it on New Year’s Day, Hall ran a Zoom quiz for his grandchildren. “It was wonderful,” he said.

Starlink set up and ready to connect

Hall is now seeing average download speeds between 85 and 90 Mbps. “It is absolutely transformational,” he said. The connection has dropped out a couple of times but he said it’s not a problem for people living in rural communities.

Starlink speed test

After unpacking it from the box, Hall installed the Starlink app on his smartphone. He plugged in the terminal, which positions itself so it’s facing the sky and then tilts to align with the satellites. “It’s like an appliance,” Hall said. “You literally just plug it in and follow an app.”

Starlink kit in the box

But the Starlink price is a fall back for some UK users. Starlink costs £89 a month for 100-150 Mbps, while some national providers offer download speeds of up to 516 Mbps for just £79 per month. Hall said he understands that fibre is cheaper, but where he lives, he can’t get fibre so Starlink is the only alternative.

starlink satellite internet spacex smartphone phone trcker logo illustration GettyImages 1229328429
A photo illustration of a satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Without Musk’s internet, Hall said that it was “like a chocolate teapot in terms of watching a video.” Starlink has allowed Hall to stream TV series on Netflix and other services including Chromecast.

senior woman watching tv at home

But like many other Starlink Reddit users, Hall said the range of the router doesn’t stretch that far and the signal can be weak. “When we went to the other side of the house, we weren’t picking it up.”

Starlink UK visible
A Starlink satellite moves across the night sky over Saltburn on April 20, 2020 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Owned by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX aims to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites in the Earth’s orbit to improve internet service across the globe.

For people living in rural areas, such as Hall and even indigenous communities in Canada, Starlink can be transformational. “Elon Musk has transformed the whole thing. It’s a very exciting time,” Hall said.

Elon Musk
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