SpaceX is the only company offering next-gen satellite internet access right now, even if it’s still technically a beta. SpaceX began the Starlink beta last year, and it already serves about 100,000 consumers. However, SpaceX CEO has revealed on Twitter (as he often does) that the beta will come to an end next month. That could mean Starlink is ready to expand and offer even higher speeds.
Satellite internet has been around for ages, and it hasn’t gotten much faster over the years. Companies like HughesNet and Viasat will get you a few megabits with plenty of lag, which is often the best option available in remote areas. Systems like Starlink will change that. Instead of relying on a few big satellites, Starlink has a constellation of smaller nodes orbiting at various altitudes. The result is faster connectivity with latency just a bit worse than terrestrial connections.
The Starlink beta has been a huge success, even with its limitations. You can only join if you’re in the northern US or southern Canada, and acceptance means you have to buy a $500 dish from SpaceX. The company promises that hardware will get you between 50 and 150 Mbps and latency of 20ms to 40ms. Even over the course of the beta, the average speeds on the network have increased from an average of 65 Mbps to almost 100 Mbps.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 17, 2021
Musk says that Starlink is targeting 300 Mbps speeds by later this year. Unlike many Musk boasts, this one seems plausible. SpaceX already has nearly 2,000 satellites in the constellation, and it can dump 60 more in orbit with each Falcon 9 launch. The company has a license for 12,000 Starlink nodes, and it’s possible it will get authorization for tens of thousands more. Ending the beta could be the first step.
One major change after the beta will, presumably, be that people can sign up again. While there are 100,000 current Starlink subscribers paying the $99 monthly fee, there are 500,000 still on the waiting list, and it can only manufacture 5,000 dishes per month. SpaceX is ramping up production of new dishes to accommodate additional subscribers, and this hardware should support higher speeds. Whether or not they’ll get us to Musk’s promised 300 Mbps speeds is unclear, but Starlink will only get more capable as the network expands.
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