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Starlink’s LEO Satellite Broadband Service to Exit Beta in October

Saturday, September 18th, 2021 (7:55 am) - Score 3,600
Starlink-Dish-on-UK-House-Official

The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has announced that the Starlink service, which delivers ultrafast low latency broadband across the world via a mega constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), will finally leave its long-running beta phase and get a full commercial launch in October 2021. But don’t expect too many changes, yet.

At present Starlink has already launched around 1,800 LEOs into space (over 1,600 are active) and their initial plan is to deploy a total of 4,425 by 2024, which could then be followed by as many as 12,000 at a later date (possibly late 2026). The service has already gone live in the USA, Canada, the UK and is now extending into other parts of the world, but until now it was still a beta product (albeit a beta taken by c.100,000 customers).

NOTE: Starlink’s compact satellites weigh about 260Kg each and orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 540 and 570 kilometres.

Beta customers in the UK typically pay a hefty £89 a month for the service, plus £54 for shipping and £439 ($499) for the kit (dish, router etc.). But for that the operator claims you can expect to receive unlimited usage, fast latency times of 20-40ms, download speeds of between 50-150Mbps and uploads of c.20Mbps (such figures will improve as their network grows).

The good news, as spoken yesterday by Elon Musk, is that Starlink will finally come out of beta “next month.” The beta has had its ups and downs, not least between issues of connection reliability and thermal shutdowns, but anybody taking Starlink as a full commercial product will be expecting such issues to have been resolved. Today’s network is of course much bigger and the terminal kit, as well as the software, is being improved, which will hopefully bode well for those who order the final product next month.

So far, the service speeds and latency times that Starlink deliver have generally been in keeping with what the beta promised, and performance continues to improve as the network grows and evolves (e.g. the recent addition of inter satellite lasers being a good example of this).

However, going commercial is also likely to place additional load on the network from masses of new customers, which is necessary in order for it to be economically viable. But that may yet impact performance further down the line, especially if you’re in an area with lots of other Starlink users nearby. The network is more intended for rural consumers, but no doubt some poorly served urban users may also view it as an option.

Musk previously remarked that the first 500,000 customers should get the service, but it will become more of a “challenge when we get into the several million user range.” At present the operator has already taken pre-orders from around 600,000 to 700,000 customers, with lead times extending up to around 6 months.

Starlink also plan to maintain a simple non-tiered approach to pricing and, at the time of writing, there’s no indication to suggest that the launch product will be radically different from that of the beta, at least in terms of price, but we’ll find out more next month. However, it is known that Starlink are developing a basic package for lower income consumers, although we’ve yet to see that proposal being turned into a product.

In an ideal world we’d like to see Starlink offering a 50Mbps package for half the price, which might be more viable to remote rural consumers in the UK, but so far, they’ve shown no indication of wanting to go down that route. Roll on October.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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13 Responses
  1. Gary says:

    A 1 subscriber/household with 150Mbps I’d think is likely to consume less than 3 subscribers at 50Mbps each.

    So yes potentially a nice earner 1/3 the bandwidth for 1/2 the cost but at the risk of more potential to run into contention issues as the network reaches its throughput capacity and 3 families are streaming TV and patching games etc simultaneously rather than 1.

    It’s a very limited solution in terms of the continually increasing demand for data, and not just because the full network isn’t yet launched.

    1. Damien says:

      Still can’t get it- had to go with BT G.fast instead. A shame but I won’t look at this again for 18 months and hope then it’s available

  2. Guy Cashmore says:

    Would be great if they developed a significantly lower bandwidth offer that could operate with smaller hand held equipment, similar to Iridium, Thuraya etc, 10Mbps would be ample. For global roamers currently stuck with paying outrageous roaming charges for data, it would be a no brainer.

    1. Marek says:

      Starlink doesn’t work and won’t work when crossing countries, maybe even if crossing “cells” within same country.

  3. anon says:

    I think they are aiming for higher bandwidth satellites at the moment, so matching higher speed internet connections (~200mbps) with higher price tags would make sense.

    I’d like them to offer a 100mbps product for £50-£60 but doubt it will happen, as this would compete directly with FTTC products and they don’t have the capacity for that.

    1. 2evs says:

      Had FTTC. only got 18Mpbs next door gets 20Mpbs. Think you will find average FTTC customer will get similar bandwidth.

  4. Buggerlugz says:

    It’d be viable at its current price at gigabit speeds, sadly it isn’t plus the amount of power it uses is scandalous.

    1. Gary says:

      Not to mention the waste in short lifespan Leo’s burning up on top of the launch footprint.

      Starlink is marching in the opposite direction to everyone else it seems.

    2. Max says:

      Well yeah.. obviously they are marching out of a crowd of profiteering ISP’s that take 10 years to rollout high speed internet, and Elon is doing it in 1 year.

      I think you’ll find people who get zero internet, or 1-3mbit on ADSL2+ or 4G will be more than happy to have a terminal that uses a lot of power if it gives them a usable connection.

    3. Winston Smith says:

      @ Max – Starlink has about 100,000 customers as per the article. ISPs are rolling out FTTP to millions of customers per year. VM rolled out higher speeds than this to many millions of customers years ago.

      If you think Musk isn’t planning to make a profit (and that will be relatively simple given that most customers will have little or no other choices) then you may be interested in buying a bridge I have to sell.

    4. NeilM says:

      Price isn’t a problem while they are taking customers from the current satellite internet providers.

      £89 isn’t that much for people who are already paying that much for a very poor connection.

      https://www.viasat.com/about/newsroom/blog/viasat-announces-fourth-quarter-and-fiscal-year-2019-results/

      That is how much potential revenue is on the table from via sat alone. That’s not including the wisp providers, Hughes net and other products which can come off the back of the higher bandwidth.

      The revenue is there, Starlink has to stay afloat long enough to break even.

    5. 2evs says:

      Just checked power consumption on Starlink kit received a few weeks ago. Its nothing like reported previously. I’m using now Dishy and Brick only (no router) 17Watts. Doing a speed test I’ve recorded 25 watts.

  5. 2EVS says:

    Had a poor FTTC connection. Fiber has been run across the top of my driveway but no possibility of an FTTP connection without paying many thousands of £. No branch from the fiber trunk near! The solution is Starlink. I think many in non-rural locations will be in the same situation. As bandwidth demands grow to exceed FTTC capacity and BT stop providing FTTC connections many will find StarLink cost acceptable.

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