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SpaceX to keep Starlink pricing simple, quit beta when network is “reliable”

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Enlarge / SpaceX Starlink logo.

The Starlink broadband network is likely to stick to one price instead of offering different levels of service, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said yesterday.

“I do not think we need to make differentiated pricing for consumers. We will try to keep it as simple and transparent as possible, so right now there are no plans to differentiate consumers,”

; Shotwell said according to a CNBC article. Shotwell spoke during a panel discussion at the 2021 Satellite Conference.

SpaceX has charged $ 99 per month for the Starlink beta service plus $ 499 in advance for the user terminal / satellite dish, mounting stand and router. Other satellite and terrestrial broadband services typically charge different rates for different speeds, and many of them impose a data loophole and charge extra fees for those who exceed the limit.

Although SpaceX only has one price for most customers, it is likely to offer a cheaper plan for people with low incomes. SpaceX is seeking a “Qualified Telecommunications Company” designation that allows for reimbursement from the FCC’s Lifeline program to offer discounts on telecommunications services to low-income people. In its application, SpaceX told the FCC that it “will provide Lifeline to qualified low-income consumers and publish the availability of Lifeline services in a manner reasonably designed to reach those who are likely to qualify for the service. “

User terminal costs come down

The one-time cost of $ 499 is a barrier for people on a tight budget, but it is actually less than SpaceX pays to make the terminals. CNBC wrote:

Shotwell said SpaceX has “made great strides in reducing costs” for the Starlink user terminal, which was originally around $ 3,000 each. She said the terminals now cost less than $ 1,500, and SpaceX “just rolled out a new version that saved about $ 200 from the cost.”

SpaceX expects to bring its costs per. Terminal down to “the few hundred dollars range within the next year or two,” Shotwell said.

Starlink’s announced beta speeds are 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps, with latencies of 20 ms to 40 ms. Speeds will hit 300 Mbps later in the year and become available to “most of the earth” by the end of 2021, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in February.

Beta does not end until the network is trusted

Two months ago, SpaceX opened pre-orders for the Starlink service, while limited space in each geographic region will be available in the second half of 2021. Shotwell said SpaceX still has plenty of work to do before moving from beta to general availability, which Cablefax reported:

Starlink does not have a timeline for when it will move out of the beta phase, as there is still a long way to go before the broadband service is available and able to take on a large customer base. “We still have a lot of work to do to make the network reliable. We still have declines, not necessarily just because of where the satellites are in the sky,” SpaceX President / COO Gwynne Shotwell said at the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum on Tuesday. “We stick to it until the network is reliable and good, and something we would be proud of.”

Although Starlink is already faster than the limited Internet settings in many poorly served areas, SpaceX warns users to expect “short periods of no connection at all” during the beta version.

Musk has said that Starlink will not be able to serve a large percentage of customers in densely populated areas, “because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough,” and Shotwell reiterated this point yesterday. While major ISPs like Comcast and AT&T provide service cost-effectively in cities, SpaceX “just can’t put as much bandwidth in the limited area” with its low-earth satellites, she said, according to Cablefax.

Plan to “serve every household in the countryside”

SpaceX plans to have comprehensive coverage in the rural United States, as Via Satellite wrote:

“I know that in five years’ time, my constellation will be able to serve any rural household in the United States,” Shotwell said, giving an estimate of about 20 million rural households. “We also do these analyzes for other countries. Our focus is originally on the United States, because [customers] speak English and they are close. If they have a problem with their dish, we can get one sent out quickly. But we will certainly expand this capacity beyond the United States and Canada. “

SpaceX needs another public license to serve 20 million households. The company has an FCC license to implement up to 1 million user terminals and has asked the FCC for authority to implement up to 5 million. SpaceX also asked the FCC for permission to deploy Starlink terminals on cars, ships and aircraft.

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