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Expert Overview of Starlink

SpaceX Starlink is an upcoming low Earth orbit satellite constellation that will offer consumer-centric broadband internet services. It is unclear whether the company will market these services directly, or whether they will partner with an existing telecommunications company as an intermediary.

The company hopes to solve one of the key issues with traditional satellite internet, which is the inherent latency introduced by the immense distances the satellites themselves orbit the Earth at. Low Earth orbit satellites are much easier for ground stations to communicate with, hopefully allowing for broadband-level internet speeds anywhere with an open view of the skies.

When Will Starlink Internet Be Available?

Though no specific dates have been announced, SpaceX has signalled their intention to begin serving customers as early as Q1 2020. That said, it is unclear how many orbital launches will be needed in order to get the full array into position. Some estimates show that the company will need 5 years to complete the number of launches necessary to bring the service to users around the world, but this figure could change depending on the orbital craft SpaceX uses.

To date, SpaceX has undertaken several test flights, including one that put 60 Starlink satellites into low orbit. These early prototypes do not have the ability to communicate directly with each other, but still serve as a demonstration of the full array’s potential.

Will Starlink Provide Cellular Service?

SpaceX is unlikely to offer cell service via Starlink, as it still requires a ground-based antenna to function properly. That said, considering the rise of VoIP services over the past several years, it does seem likely that the company could disrupt the cellular market, despite not offering a direct replacement service.

Frequently asked questions about Starlink

  • Will Starlink Have Data Caps?

    At this point, it is unclear as to whether or not Starlink’s service will employ the use of data caps or threshold limits. It is possible that these may be used as a temporary measure while the company gets the entire array into orbit around the Earth. SpaceX will likely launch the Starlink service in waves, so it makes sense that bandwidth capacity may be limited at first, though no further details have been confirmed.

  • How Much Will Starlink Internet Cost?

    No pricing information has been released for SpaceX’s upcoming Starlink service as of yet. It is not known if the company plans to market and price the service themselves, or partner with an existing telecom provider in the US to offer services to consumers.

  • What Speeds Will Starlink Offer?

    SpaceX has mentioned that Starlink should, in theory, be capable of providing Gigabit (1000 Mbps) speeds, but no details have been confirmed at this stage. When SpaceX provides further details, we’ll update this page with the latest information available.

Starlink Facts

  • Starlink satellites have an estimated 5-year lifespan, and will enter a controlled deorbit at the end of their cycle.
  • Starlink internet plans to utilize an 11,943-satellite constellation in order to provide broadband-level speeds to the entire planet.
  • Elon Musk has said that "The focus is going to be on creating a global communication system. In the long term, it will be like rebuilding the internet in space. The goal will be to have the majority of internet traffic go over this network and about 10% local and business traffic."
  • Starlink will require a ground-based flat Phased Array antenna, which is roughly the size of a laptop computer and may cost between $100 – $300.
  • Starlinks satellites will operate primarily on the Ku and Ka frequency bands.