SpaceX’s Starlink division is already providing internet service to approximately 100,000 users across 14 countries. The company operates around 1,740 broadband satellites in low Earth orbit that are capable of beam high-speed internet directly to user terminals on Earth. The user terminal is a phased-array dish antenna that SpaceX nicknamed ‘Dishy McFlatFace'; It works alongside a Wi-Fi router to connect to devices wirelessly. The company plans to launch over 20,000 satellites to provide high-speed broadband access globally, primarily focused on rural and remote regions.
On September 7, SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnsen participated in the Satellite 2021 conference where he shared that they currently are manufacturing 5,000 Dishy McFlatFace terminals per week. Previously, SpaceX officials said they have over half-a-million customers who pre-ordered waiting for the service – it would take a couple of years for them to fulfill all orders at that rate. Johnsen said that they are working to produce “multiples of that” in the next few months to fulfill orders. He also shared that SpaceX plans to release a new user terminal that will be cheaper to manufacture and faster to manufacture.
Currently, the monthly broadband service costs $99 USD and customers pay $499 USD for the Starlink Kit that includes Dishy and all the necessary equipment to access the internet via the Starlink satellite constellation. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in August that the company is losing money with every Dishy McFlatFace sold. The phased-array antenna actually costs around $1,000 USD to manufacture. SpaceX was willing to sacrifice half of its investment per user terminal in order to provide an affordable device to the average consumer. Shotwell said that SpaceX aims to was reduce the production cost in half by the end of 2021. “[…] We were able to tackle almost all the elements of the cost before we rolled out service, with the exception of the user terminal [dish]. I can say, not proudly, that with every customer we acquire we lose money on the user terminal because the cost … is higher than the average consumer can afford,” Shotwell said at the 36th annual Space Symposium.
Johnsen also mentioned this investment loss this week –“Right now, we are not at a point where we want to be from a cost perspective versus what we’re charging,” he said. “If you can get that user terminal cost down, that’s really the Holy Grail for the consumer side of the business.” Johnsen shared that the new terminal they are developing will help them reduce production cost by “a little over half.” The new Starlink antenna could be available later this fall. However, it will be the same price of $499 USD. “We’re not passing on the cost reductions yet to our customers. We certainly hope to do that in the not-too-distant future,” Johnsen said. For more information on the broadband service visit SpaceX's official website: Starlink.com.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink