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SpaceX Prices Starlink’s Beta LEO Satellite Broadband Service

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020 (5:09 pm) - Score 7,632
starlink user terminal SpaceX

Good news, SpaceX has unofficially revealed how much they intend to charge open beta customers of their new Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite broadband service. Bad news, it’ll set you back $99 (c.£75) per month for the service rental and $499 (c.£380) for the ground terminal, tripod and router hardware.

The details surfaced as part of a leaked beta invite email from Starlink, which was confirmed by CNBC. The message informs users to expect variable data speeds from 50Mbps to 150Mbps (consistent with recent examples), while latency will vary from 20ms to 40ms over the next few months.

The note also warns beta testers to expect “brief periods of no connectivity at all,” which will no doubt be gone once the full service launch begins. However, Starlink added that latency and data speeds will improve as more satellites and ground stations are added to their growing constellation, not to mention improvements via software updates. Indeed, the company expects latency times to reach as low as 16ms to 19ms by 2021.

As it stands the satellite operator already has around 800 LEOs in orbit and their initial ambition is to deploy a total of 4,425 by 2024, which could potentially be followed by up to 12,000 at a later date (possibly late 2026). But we hope that the provider intends to offer a cheaper entry-level plan in the future, since c.£75 is a bit too steep for many UK people (we’d probably have to add 20% VAT for this side of the Atlantic too).

However, the one-off equipment cost of c.£380 isn’t such a concern, not least because we can imagine this being covered by one of the Government’s future voucher schemes. Sadly, hefty hardware costs are a normal thing for Satellite platforms, but at least with Starlink it should be easy enough to setup without the need for a professional installer (yet to be confirmed, but that’s the gist of it).

Meanwhile the public beta has followed SpaceX tradition by giving itself the “Better Than Nothing Beta” title, with the company adding that “as you can tell from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations.” We should point out that at present this beta will only available to parts of North America. Sadly, there’s currently no firm indication of when the service might launch in the UK (they’ll need ground stations and regulatory approval first).

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36 Responses
  1. Avatar Neil says:

    So it would seem that Starlink are going after Satellite users (Hughesnet etc) initially, especially at that price, since it would need to come down to be attractive to a wider audience.

    I did read that was no data cap.

    I gather the reason for the double stage 2 burn on the recent Starlink launches, was to get the latest 180 satellites up into the preferred orbit quicker.

    1. Avatar NE555 says:

      I expect the data cap (if not an actual limit) will be in the form of a “fair usage policy”, which means they can disconnect or throttle you if you use it more than they like.

  2. Avatar Matthew says:

    Yeah i wasn’t quite expect it to cost £75 a month i was thinking more around the £50 mark. Hopefully they get regulatory approval in the UK and it doesn’t get blocked by the UK owned rival system

  3. Avatar Alec Broughton says:

    £75 a month… so, the same cost as BT business for 2Mb ADSL that works 5% of the time with a call package.

    can’t wait to swap out 😀

    1. Avatar Marek says:

      You may not be able to swap because there is no groundstation in UK from what I recall and this service is targeting most rural areas, not all DSL users. You having DSL means there is fiber 5km or closer to you.

    2. Avatar lee says:

      go with a 4g mobile router + antenna with e.g. EE. I’ve gone from BT 4mb-5mb to 15mb-20mb download, bt 0.mb upload to 3mb upload overnight with mobile and I usually only get 1/2 a bar connection on my mobile phone with EE or none at all where I am.

  4. Avatar Name says:

    And it will never be profitable. This is how to launder money legally.

  5. Avatar Ryan says:

    Don’t think I’d ever fork out £75 for satelitte Broadband.

    1. Avatar Neil says:

      It seems like £75 isn’t that much for satellite broadband. Especially with no data cap.

    2. Avatar Lee says:

      If I was stuck with 1-2 mbps adsl and no 4g option for the foreseeable future I would happily pay that for my partner and I to be able to work from home, which would be impossible otherwise, and my family to be able to game online and watch 4k streams any time they want.

  6. Avatar Ryan says:

    Will be shot down in flames but if it could deliver 100+ regularly I would pay it in a heartbeat.

    We have 25/3 it’s not enough for our family and we use the internet all day every day we rarely if ever watch live TV. Work from home, constant YouTube use etc. We push 2-3TB a month depending on what games come out.

    If starlink comes first and deliveries what no one else wants to provide us e.g. 100+ broadband I have no issues paying.

    The beauty of a free market though? In 2040 when we get an altnet or Virgin or FTTP we can switch but as mentioned if Starlink delivers I will be signing up and sticking it to my FTTC line.

    1. Avatar Right Angle Fibre says:

      @Ryan Is your speed 25/3 matching the predictions or expectations of your line? Might be worth checking your internal landline house wiring, have you got an isolating NTE? Tried disconnecting your telephone extensions going to other rooms?

      Might be worth considering installing a second VDSL line, say from Voda for £23/month for a 40/10 line and splitting your usage. This is still a cheaper option than Starlink?

  7. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    If Elon thinks the price of this service is as high as his satellites he’s got a big awakening coming. Just because we’re fleeced here in the UK for shockingly poor broadband provision doesn’t mean he can take advantage of that fact.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      It’s not for sale in the U.K. No-one is being fleeced – this is a good price for the service being offered, way less than comparable services. Get a quote for a VSAT terminal and a contract to use it and see what you think then.

      This is, or will be, a global service. I doubt Elon is too concerned that one grumpy bloke in England thinks it costs too much. The service will be subscribed to capacity from the moment it’s available to buy.

  8. Avatar Jack says:

    Given the infrastructure required to deliver this connectivity it feels like a fairly reasonable price.

    As others have commented, being limited to 4g broadband or exchange only lines with low speeds and no sign of fibre in sight, it feels like a reasonable proposition…

  9. Avatar Brian James says:

    Oct 6, 2020 SpaceX Starlink Mission Highlights (Launch, landing and Deployment)

    Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s first flight to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts onboard and the ANASIS-II mission.

    https://youtu.be/WugIBXIxHAI

  10. Avatar WithinCellsInterlinked says:

    The interesting part of course will be to see what it costs globally.
    It’s unlikely to cost the same in the mountains of Nepal as what it’s gonna cost us in the UK. I’d say we can probably take what the dollar amount is, change the $ for a £ and add about 10-15% just like with Tesla cars.

    I mean, overall it doesn’t sound that bad still. Was anyone expecting 100mbits+ two way for what you pay BT/Sky/VM a month? If you live in the middle of nowhere and your only option is some 30mbit eurosat thingy with all kinds of strange restrictions for £50 a month then this actually sounds fairly decent.

    But I bet the UK will end up paying more than everyone else does. I mean, we do with Tesla

    1. Avatar Darren Reid says:

      Teslas are more expensive due to taxes. Vat mostly but import duty too.

    2. Avatar Riley Smiley says:

      That’s really not true though.
      Because you can literally import one from USA, pay the import tax and duty on the car, have it pass all it’s tests and you will save about £7-8,000 compared to buying one direct in the UK.

      It’s Elon Musk that claims it’s tax. And you believed him.

    3. Avatar 125us says:

      Tesla prices in the U.K. have increased in line with the drop in value of the pound since the Brexit vote.

    4. Avatar A_Builder says:

      On the other hand Tesla prices have been going down for quite a while.

      If you look at the prices of the X & S year on year they are falling.

      They also had a £5k price cut this year.

      This is mainly to do with battery costs dropping as things scale up from hobby level to full manufacturing levels.

      When the X fist came out if was £125k now it is about £83k OK still expensive and I would expect that to drop another £5k in the next 12 months.

      If there is a BREXIT deal as now seems increasingly likely I would expect an exchange rate driven cut as well.

      If HMG really want to drive EV take up they need to do something about the VAT for ordinary users. For businesses it is not really an issue as we can claim half of the VAT back but or Jo Soap……

    5. Avatar Darren Reid says:

      Where did you get your numbers Riley?

      Import duty is 10% and vat 20%.

      Base model 3 is $40,000. Add these costs and convert to pound you get £40,700. Cost is £42,500 in the UK. Once you pay for shipping the cost is similar.

    6. Avatar Jon says:

      Prices will get lower.

      B2C consumer contracts will be dwarfed by the income generated from point to point industrial scale bandwidth sales.

      Starlink by virtue of the fact light travels faster in the vacuum of space will use space laser transmission to provide faster point to point industrial scale bandwidth than any land or sea based cables at a fraction of the cost. That is where the big money is!

      They will also be able to deliver those services direct to ground stations closer to the point of consumption for even more advantage.

  11. Avatar Josh says:

    It is still something i am rather looking forward to, given the horrific cost of FTTP in the Caribbean (where available). Current exchange is 108 GBP a month for 20/10. Fastest package is 100/50, but comes in around 285GBP. I suspect the local ISP is rather cheap with routing also, as i often get much better ping times to Europe by using a Miami based VPN.
    As i move to and from islands for work, I think the only place it’d not be of use is Barbados. I miss English Internet.

    1. Avatar NE555 says:

      You won’t get it though if the government decides not to permit the Starlink service to be used (and/or the import of Starlink terminals)

  12. Avatar Kekkle says:

    If it functions as described then those prices seem reasonable – given the alternatives in the markets/areas that this will be able to compete with (and probably outperform).

  13. Avatar Gavin says:

    I was expecting to see higher speeds than that, given that I’m sure I recall it being labelled as a near 1Gbps service. Latency looks decent for a satellite service and prices aren’t bad if its not capped (compared to other sat providers who may be slightly cheaper, but for data plans that aren’t realistic today). If speeds were higher, I’d certainly be interested.

    1. Avatar JamesP says:

      It’s early days hence it’s still in beta. In time, speeds will likely increase substantially.

  14. Avatar Fred says:

    This service will likely attract a Fan boy element, but is it really required in the UK? We’re in the midst of a national FTTP and 5G rollout, which should facilitate good broadband across the whole of the UK going forward, so this isn’t required in developed countries imo. Where I could see a use is in low latency Trans Atlantic/Pacific trading, where the satellite trains could offer lower latency HFT services, than Submarine cable systems such as Hibernia. The low orbit satellite systems wont have the bandwidth of submarine cable systems. The weak point in the system is the Microwave upload/download section, which could be affected by weather conditions such as rain fade, which would increase retransmission rates and slow the service.

    1. Avatar Alec Broughton says:

      I would argue it is required. there are a large number of people who still have zero prospect of any reasonable connection until 2025 or beyond, assuming no targets are missed (unlikely).

      National 5G rollout seems focused only on cities and large towns for now, I’ve seen none hit any rural areas, so that is realistically years away.

      There are no plans for FTTP in our area according to openreach, barely get 4G with external antenna and there are no alternate providers in the area via any other serice type (OTA etc). Although it will happen at some point. we’re still on classic ADSL over long aluminium cables.

      So, do we sit and just wait for FTTP (years away at best), or 5G (years away, assuming we can even get a signal).. or better 4G that will work faster than 6Mb when it isn’t raining (won’t happen) or upgrade from a barely usable service to something usable as it becomes available.

      I’ll take the new service please.

  15. Avatar JohnP says:

    No doubt at all that it’s required. I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

    The question is whether providers like BT will see this as a throwing down of the gauntlet and will now pull their fingers out to roll out FTTP into rural communities much faster than anticipated.

    Here in Cumbria FTTP has been planned for a long time where I live in a semi rural community and notwithstanding Covid having some degree of impact, no work has started at all.

    So, I suspect instead that they’ll sit on their hands on the basis that if someone else, i.e. Elon Musk, is prepared to pick up the tab then why bother since it’s not something they’re tripping over themselves to do in the first place.

    1. Avatar Fred says:

      I just don’t see how it will work on the scale telegraphed by the press. The downlink and uplink frequencies quoted, would need approval in all the countries using the service. I also have some experience of terrestrial line of sight Microwave radio links, and I’m well aware of the weather related issues as you move up the SHF Band into the EHF Band. Why aren’t they mounting Microwave arrays on Television and cell site masts now, to serve rural areas? Assuming that there is Fibre to the mast and line of sight, they could use 5G arrays at the mast to offer the same service as the satellite systems. I could see a use for Starlink on planes and boats, but there are much cheaper terrestrial solutions that would probably work better for rural users, possibly with a little more latency. Maybe I’m missing something, but putting thousands of satellites into space at massive cost, to serve relatively few users seems mad to me. All I can think is that there’s more to Starlink than just serving hard to reach rural customers.

  16. Avatar Neil Mullins says:

    So yes the service will need approval in all countries that spacex intend to offer a service. The process is underway in UK, Canada, Austrailia that I am aware of, obviously it has already been sorted in the US.

    The advantage of a satellite is it gets around line of sight issues, and at the height they operate at, covers a circle with a diameter of 900km approx. Each satellite is meant to support 23 terabits (Not confirmed).

    I think as well when you consider masts, think about countries which are a lot larger than the UK, Canada, US, Austrailia. The cost of running the fibre to the mast is not going to be cheap, which is why the underserved are their. The economics without government support aren’t there.

    Anyway, along way to go before this is working.

    PS – Trials have been conducted with the US airforce and planned for the US Army.

    PPS – Idea of costs for a Satellite service in the US

    https://www.satelliteinternet.com/providers/hughesnet/internet/

    1. Avatar Fred says:

      “Each satellite is meant to support 23 terabits (Not confirmed).”

      Standard submarine cable systems, currently in service, offer around 80 100GB channels giving a bandwidth of 8 Terrabits per fibre pair. Some of the more modern cable systems are quoted as supporting up to 26 Terabits per Fibre pair. The submarine cable systems use combinations of optical splitters/combiners in association with channel cards in various bands and use techniques such as dispersion compensation to deal with delays in the fibre at various wavelengths. Space probably doesn’t present the same issues as glass, but you’d need a lot of processing to combine data from various satellites and aggregate data from different sources and keep the channel/data information intact. Even if the lasers and optical receivers could cope with a 23 terabit throughput, the ground users would be limited by the bandwidth of the uplink/downlink microwave bandwidth. If by some chance the satellites could be arranged into arrays, so that the uplinks were shared between multiple satellites combining multiple users, the amount of processing to deal with recombining multiple data streams, from different sources, would again be significant and add delay. What I’m saying is that the technology, processing, cost and issues for scaling up customer numbers would be a phenomenal technological achievement, as well being phenomenally expensive in my opinion. If the marketing is successful and it attracts lots of users, it will be interesting to watch how the system copes, as the number of users increase.

  17. Avatar c.j says:

    we have to remember, in the UK we do get very bad weather in winter i.e heavy rain/snow, and these conditions will have a bad effect on anything that uses a satellite dish!!

  18. Avatar Pacman says:

    This is very price competitive with existing satellite services.
    Even then I don’t think it’s wise to assume US prices will be applied in the UK or Europe. US ISP costs are much higher than the UK due to the big distances, so this is already a great deal for many millions of US and Canadian users.

    Once the hardware is in orbit they will adjust local pricing to local demand – no point in leaving the satellites idle over Europe and access costs for Africa and Eurasia will again be more what the market can bear not what the network cost.

    I think there is a chance we will see the reverse of the Motorola/Iridium problem.
    A really expensive network that was overtaken by global 3G deployment.

    If there was a universal 100Mb/40ms service who would spend billions building a nationwide FTTP and 5G in the UK ? There’s a niche market for very high data users, but outside business parks it’s negligible.

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