With confirmations already coming in from around the US, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and others, SpaceX has quietly opened up preorders around the world for its Starlink internet service.
Coming less than four months after SpaceX launched Starlink’s first invite-only public beta test, Starlink internet service appears to be speeding towards a general release eventually rolling out to more than 10,000 users as of February 2021. Caveats and several obstacles remain, of course.
In every single country SpaceX wishes to operate in, Starlink’s international rollout is entirely dependent on a lengthy, bureaucratic mechanism of regulatory approvals. As of 2021, with beta customers already common in all three countries, SpaceX has managed to obtain licenses to deliver Starlink Internet service in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Work is well underway in Mexico, Germany, Greece, France, Australia, Argentina, and Chile to obtain licenses. In the Caribbean, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, The Philippines, India, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, and Columbia, the process is still in the earlier phases but still underway. Many other nations are also likely to be operating, although they have yet to be verified by government filings or officials.
According to CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX’s goal is to offer the service for “the same price in all countries,” with the only major difference being “taxes and shipping.” Adjusted from local currency to USD, that means that Starlink should be similarly available for just about anyone with access.
Pricing in industrialized cities and medium-density communities in general remains reasonably steep at the moment. For average download speeds of 50-150 megabits per second (MBps) and latency of 20-40ms, prospective users can pay $99 USD per month but must also pay a significant fee ($500 USD) for the user terminal itself. For now, most internet users in developed and less developed nations, the price will keep it off the horizon.
In fact, SpaceX and Starlink almost exclusively target rural internet users with virtually unusable access or service at all. The captive market of many tens of millions of people worldwide is ready to be taken up, as most households currently rely on extremely costly and low-quality cellular, satellite, or DSL connections, if they are connected at all in those circumstances. In certain ways, Starlink would potentially be the same price or cheaper than current solutions while enhancing the user experience by one or more orders of magnitude at the same time.
SpaceX tends to provide unrestricted preorders with a refundable deposit of $99 USD and provides a standardized “mid-to-late 2021” boilerplate timeframe for the availability of services and the shipment of consumer terminals.