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.