SpaceX received government approval to deploy one million user terminals in the United States to access its satellite broadband constellation dubbed Starlink.
The Elon Musk-headed company asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the license to take this action in February 2019. Approval of the request came a year later through the publication of a public notice. It is blanket permission for the operation of fixed-earth stations for 15 years to communicate with the satellite system.
Musk describes the technology as something that looks like a UFO on a stick. The actuators on the stations point themselves in the correct direction to ensure high-speed communications are always possible.
Although this figure only covers a small portion of American homes, Musk isn’t trying to saturate the marketplace with this technology immediately. The goal of Starlink is to offer high-speed Internet solutions to the 4% of rural homes that have zero connectivity right now because of their location.
SpaceX Has Over 350 Satellites in Orbit Right Now
The FCC already approved for SpaceX to launch almost 12,000 satellites into orbit for the Starlink system. About 350 of them have launched so far, capable of delivering latencies of less than 20ms from its low-Earth orbital position. The service is expected to be available to some parts of the United States this year.
It will take several years for Musk and SpaceX to launch the entire system. The company is getting about 60 satellites into orbit each month.
Mobile devices are currently the primary method that people use to access the internet. That’s the reason why cities aren’t expected to be the primary customers for SpaceX with this new system.
It is the homes that don’t have access to fiber or cable connections. Although Internet saturation rates are high in the United States, the 4% of homes that are the most rural are still relying on outdated dial-up connections based on landline installations. This fact applies to the developing world, especially in places where little infrastructure exists.
As Starlink continues to press forward with its plans, the competition may be giving up. OneWeb is one of the primary disrupters in this unique business space, and the company is considering a bankruptcy filing because of delays to the launch schedule.
A price for the new Starlink service is not official as of yet, but it is expected to cost at least $80 per month once launched.