SpaceX has quietly opened up preorders around the world for its Starlink internet service, with confirmations already rolling in from across the US, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and others.
Coming less than four months after SpaceX opened Starlink’s first invite-only public beta test, ultimately rolling out to more than 10,000 users as of February 2021, Starlink internet service appears to be speeding towards a general release. Of course, caveats and many hurdles remain.
Crucially, Starlink’s international rollout is entirely contingent upon a complex, bureaucratic process of regulatory approvals in every single country SpaceX wants to operate in. As of 2021, SpaceX has managed to secure licenses to distribute Starlink internet service in the US, Canada, and United Kingdom, with beta customers already widespread in all three countries.
Work to secure licenses is well underway in Mexico, Germany, Greece, France, Australia, Argentina, and Chile. The process is also in the earlier stages – but already underway – in the Caribbean, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, The Philippines, India, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, and Columbia. Many additional countries are likely in work, as well, but have yet to be confirmed via 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.
At the moment, pricing remains fairly steep in developed cities and medium-density populations in general. Prospective users will pay USD$99 per month for average download speeds of 50-150 megabits per second (MBps) and latency of 20-40ms, but must also pay a substantial fee (USD$500) for the user terminal itself. For now, that price will keep it off the horizon for most internet users in developed and less developed countries.
In reality, though, SpaceX and Starlink are almost exclusively targeting rural internet users with no access at all or service that is virtually unusable. That captive market of several tens of millions of people worldwide is ripe for the taking, as most households in those situations currently rely on extremely expensive and low-quality cellular, satellite, or DSL connections if they are connected at all. In many cases, Starlink will actually be the same price or cheaper than existing solutions while simultaneously improving the user experience by one or several orders of magnitude.
SpaceX appears to be offering unrestricted preorders with a refundable USD$99 deposit and is offering a generic “mid-to-late 2021” boilerplate timeframe for service availability and user terminal shipment.