SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell says that the company has secured more than half a million preorders for Starlink satellite internet in the last nine months.
Several months after SpaceX began a gradual Starlink internet rollout to prospective customers on New Zealand’s northern island, the service has now been opened up to the entire country.
On the heels of a confirmation that Starlink’s beta program has expanded from ~70,000 to 90,000+ users in a single month, New Zealand’s full welcome is just the latest step in SpaceX’s slow but steady march towards consumer-ready internet available anywhere on Earth. In the same presentation to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), SpaceX also revealed that Starlink is currently serving customers in 12 countries: likely the United States, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Chile.
However, in each of those countries, SpaceX has generally pursued a careful rollout schedule to verify overall performance – as well as the functionality of custom-built ground stations in each country – before opening Starlink to beta testers throughout each country. New Zealand is now the latest country to pass through that regional firewall.
Less than a month after SpaceX’s FCC filing reveal a bump to 90,000 Starlink beta users, COO and President Gwynne Shotwell revealed that Starlink has added another ~10,000 active users in the last few weeks. Even more significantly, another comment from Shotwell in the same forum presentation strongly implies that SpaceX has at least 500,000 more Starlink beta preorders for a total of ~600,000 prospective customers as of mid-August 2021.
If SpaceX can convert all of those preorders to active users in the next six months and 500,000 (~85%) become long-term customers, the company could effectively secure almost $1 billion in Starlink revenue over the next ~18 months. Crucially, the 600,000 preorders (and 100,000 customers) Starlink has secured in the last nine months have been for services that SpaceX has made abundantly clear are still in beta – with all the reliability issues and software/hardware bugs that entails.
Likely before the end of 2021, SpaceX will have more than 1500 operational Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, enabling virtually uninterrupted coverage of the populated surface (excluding polar regions). Already, more than 1400 of those rectangular ~260 kg (~575 lb) spacecraft have reached their operational orbits and have likely joined the rest of the constellation to provide internet to Starlink’s ~100,000 active users. It’s unclear how long it will take SpaceX to refine Starlink’s hardware and software into a truly consumer-ready product and service but it’s safe to say that the constellation as a whole has never been more ready.