SpaceX founder Elon Musk participated at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, as a keynote speaker on Tuesday. He opened the conference with a discussion about SpaceX’s Starlink Internet network. During the conference, Musk said that Starlink will be capable of providing internet connection to half-a-million users within the next year. –“You can think of Starlink as filling in the gaps between 5G and fiber,” Musk said, “really getting to the most difficult to reach three or five percent” of people who need high-speed internet in rural areas. "It quite nicely complements fiber and 5G,” he added. “We'll have 500,000 users within 12 months. It's growing rapidly, and we're continuing to [roll out] the user terminal.”
Musk says that SpaceX’s goal is to beam broadband internet to most of the world in just a couple of months. “In August we should have global connectivity in everywhere except the poles,” Musk said during the MWC keynote. Musk has said on several occasions that Starlink will not be a 'threat' to major telecommunications (telecos) companies. In fact, SpaceX Starlink division has "two quite significant partnerships with major-country telcos that I'd like to be able to announce now, but we defer to our partners to make any announcement" and is "in discussion with a number of other telcos," Musk shared this week. He said that the Starlink constellation will be useful for other internet carriers to provide coverage in rural areas where they "might have 5G towers but have trouble with backhaul," he said, adding that Starlink "can be a very cost-effective way of doing data backhaul."
Musk also shared that SpaceX is working to reduce the cost of the Starlink dish antenna. Currently, the Starlink Kit that includes a phased-array dish antenna, Wi-Fi router, power and mounting equipment, costs $499 USD, plus the $99 USD monthly service fee. “We are losing money on that terminal right now. That terminal costs us more than $1,000” to manufacture, Musk said. “We obviously are subsidizing the cost of the terminal. We are working on next-generation terminals that provide the same level of capability, roughly the same level of capability, but cost a lot less.” He mentioned that “selling terminals for half price is not super compelling” because eventually SpaceX will have millions of customers. However, the company would like to offer a more affordable option. SpaceX is working to design a next-generation Starlink antenna that will be less costly than the antenna currently in operation. “We'd like to reduce the cost of the terminal from $500 to $200 or $350 or something like that,” he said. "Our customers will very often live in remote regions. Sometimes they're up in a cabin up in the mountain that doesn't even have electricity!” A reason why SpaceX engineers created an antenna dish that is very easy to setup and why the company plans to make a more affordable device to connect to the broadband satellite constellation.
Musk shared that he expects SpaceX to invest $5 billion to $10 billion in Starlink before it reaches a "fully positive cash flow." Long-term, the company’s investment could be $20 billion or $30 billion. "We'll have to keep investing a great deal after [reaching a profitable state] in order to not be made irrelevant by continued improvements in cellular" and other satellite systems, he said. You can watch Elon Musk’s full MWC keynote discussion in the video linked below.
VIDEO: Elon Musk At The Mobile World Congress
Featured Image Source: CNET via YouTube