Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink
SpaceX aims to offer Starlink broadband internet service worldwide.The aerospace company has deployed 540 internet-beaming satellites into low Earth orbit. The entire network will consist of over 12,000 satellites beaming low latency, high-speed internet down to Earth. When SpaceX reaches 1,440 satellites in orbit, it will commence its commercial service. The company will first offer service in northern portions of the United States and Canada. “With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” the company’s website states.
Jonathan Hofeller SpaceX Vice-President of Starlink and Commercial Sales, revealed some details of the Starlink internet network during a satellite conference on Thursday. He shared that SpaceX is ready to start its private Starlink Beta testing phase with employees, friends, and family this Summer. [*The public will also have the opportunity during a Public Beta test, sign up for updates at Starlink.com]
“By this time next year, we’ll do this broadcast over the Starlink network,” he predicted. He also mentioned Starlink’s target latency will be of 20 milliseconds (ms), which engineers will work on decreasing it to 10 ms. SpaceX officials had previously said a latency of 20 ms is responsive enough to play high-definition videos and competitive video games.
SpaceX customers will receive Starlink’s signal via 19-inch diameter user terminals that look like a ‘UFO on a stick’, the network will be very easy to set up and no professional installation will be required. Hofeller shared a photograph of the terminal (shown above) during the teleconference with reporters – “I have deployed one on my house, it’s very exciting to get one,” he said. “The instructions are super-easy. You plug it in, and you point it at the sky, and a few seconds later you have internet. It’s truly remarkable.”
“The beauty of being vertically integrated both on the user terminal, the gateways and the satellite piece of it is that we are constantly updating and improving the connection between those pieces of infrastructure,” Hofeller noted. Earlier this year, SpaceX lead engineers shared they are sending network upgrades to the Starlink satellites in orbit on a weekly basis.
During the conference, Hofeller also said the company is initially targeting direct-to-consumer market and is in talks with various vertical markets – “while we can provide a backhaul in remote regions…our focus is on rural low-density populations as a compliment to the mobile network operators.” Adding that the Starlink service can complement larger telecommunication [telecos] networks that cannot reach rural areas – “That’s where our constellation shines, so we are looking forward to being a partner with these telcos,” he said. “As soon as we can get inter-satellite links, I know that is something that we want to do,” Hofeller added. Future Starlink satellites will feature 'laser links' that will connect the satellites in orbit and enhance the network's capabilities. “We have to make sure it’s cost effective in order to provide it and implement into the constellation. That’s something we are attacking internally and aggressively and it’s something that we know will greatly enhance the system both for consumers and enterprise customers, and our government customers as well.”