Featured Image Source: Starlink Illustration Created By: Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter.
SpaceX started to offer Starlink satellite broadband internet this week. The company sent out e-mails to potential customers who would want to beta test the Starlink network in its early phase. SpaceX currently operates approximately 888 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit out of thousands it plans to deploy to provide broadband coverage globally. Starlink is initially providing service to the northern United States and southern Canada. SpaceX states that by 2021 the company will provide service to 'the populated world'.
Customers receive internet from the satellites in space via a user dish terminal and Wi-Fi router device. Acording to the e-mail SpaceX sent to the public, the 19-inch dish terminal with mounting tripod and router cost $499 USD. SpaceX says "the Starlink phased-array user terminal... is more advanced than what's in fighter jets." The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk said the phased-array antenna dish features technology that enables it to search for an optimal view of the sky and is capable of reorienting itself.
Those who signed-up to become a beta tester of Starlink shared photos of SpaceX's official user installation guidelines - the company nicknamed the dish terminal "Dishy McFlatface", pictured below. The silly nickname reflects Musk's sense of humor. "The power supply and router are restricted to indoor use only. Energized and moving parts may be inside the system. Ensure the power is disconnected before accessing, moving, or installing the Starlink (aka 'Dishy McFlatface') to avoid impact with equipment. Replace and secure the Starlink before powering on the equipment again," the network's installation guideline reads.
SpaceX nicknamed the Starlink user terminals "Dishy McFlatface," per the official installation guidelines: pic.twitter.com/wvY00Rtv8R— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) October 27, 2020
The beta tester program also has a humorous name called the "Better Than Nothing Beta" Starlink test program. It is called that way because with around 888 satellites in orbit SpaceX can only offer 'moderate' internet coverage to cities located in high-latitudes. "Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s [megabits per second] and latency from 20ms to 40ms [milliseconds] over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all," SpaceX wrote to potential beta test customers.
SpaceX plans to enter the telecommunication business with a monthly subscription of $99 USD for broadband internet connection. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already approved the operation of one million Starlink "Dishy McFlatface" user terminals. Earlier this year, SpaceX submitted a new request with the FCC seeking to operate five million user terminals in the United States. Submit your e-mail via Starlink.com if you would like to receive updates about when the service will be available in your area.