SpaceX is set to start the Starlink beta program called ‘Better Than Nothing Beta’ very soon, and the initial pricing details have been revealed in emails sent out to early beta testers. The company has also launched an app for Android and iOS which will help its users set-up Starlink’s equipment.
SpaceX’s Starlink mission aims to provide global internet access through a constellation of satellites put into low Earth orbit. The satellites will constantly beam the broadband internet to the ground, reaching even the most remote of areas where people struggle to find good connectivity.
The current pricing is going to start from $99 per month and the ‘Starlink Kit’ comes at $499 which will be a one-time-payment, according to the emails obtained by CNBC. The kit includes a user terminal which will receive the signal form the satellites, a mounting tripod and a Wi-Fi router.
As the name of the beta program suggests, SpaceX is not trying to hype its customers; rather, it is doing the opposite. “As you can tell from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations,” wrote SpaceX, in its mail received by the beta testers. The initial expected speeds are to be between 50Mb/s and 150Mb/s and expected latency is 20ms to 40ms. The email says that there will be “brief periods of no connectivity at all.” But the company says that it will continue to improve its service and will reduce the latency too.
Only people enrolled in the official beta program will be able to use the Starlink app. The app uses augmented reality to guide users to choose a proper mounting location of the equipment which ideally should be under clear and open sky to make sure that the receiver gets the best possible signal from the Starlink satellites. It also offers general Wi-Fi connectivity and Wi-Fi user stats features that are usually included in similar apps provided by internet service providers.
Starlink had rolled out a private beta program earlier this year, and during that program the participants were told not to discuss any of the program details in public. The current beta program does not appear to be as secretive as the first one. The Starlink app description says that the public beta will begin with United States and Canada in 2020 and will be “rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”
The company has already partnered with Microsoft to provide connectivity to Azure Cloud computing network through Starlink. Some of the early testers of Starlink include a rural school in Texas, Washington state’s emergency agency and the rural Hoh Indian Tribe on Washington’s Pacific Coast.
SpaceX currently has more than 800 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. In its ambitious mission to provide high-speed internet connectivity to every nook and corner of the Earth, SpaceX plans to launch thousands of more satellites to be able to provide world-wide uninterrupted coverage. The company has said that this envisioned network of Starlink satellites can cost up to $10 billion or more to build.