SpaceX Expects to Offer Starlink Broadband Services by 2020

SpaceX Expects to Offer Starlink Broadband Services by 2020

The company was in the news earlier in October when it requested the International Telecommunication Union to approve spectrum for 30,000 Starlink satellites, over and above the 12,000 already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. According to Shotwell, the company does not require these many satellites to offer global coverage

Fremont, CA: SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell believes the company will be ready to provide broadband services across the U.S. via its Starlink constellation by mid-2020. According to her, the company needs to launch six to eight more satellites before they are ready to provide broadband services. Apart from launching the satellites, the company also needs to design and engineer the user terminals in order to provide broadband services, which can be quite a task in itself.

“We need 24 launches to get global coverage. Every launch after that gives you more capacity. We’ll continue to upgrade the network until mid to late next year. We’re hoping for 24 launches by the end of next year,” said Shotwell. Currently, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a Starlink Terminal at his home, which he had used on October 22 to send out a tweet to his 29 million followers, informing them he had sent the tweet using space internet provided by the Starlink constellation.

The company was in the news earlier in October when it requested the International Telecommunication Union to approve spectrum for 30,000 Starlink satellites, over and above the 12,000 already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. According to Shotwell, the company does not require these many satellites to offer global coverage. However, the large number of satellites will come in handy in the future when the company expands its operations, looking to provide each customer with personalized experiences. The Starlink is a mesh network of satellites connected to each other by space lasers.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is currently testing the feature-rich Starlink project under a program called Global Lightning. In December 2018, SpaceX received a USD 28 million contract to check the different ways in which the military can use the Starlink broadband services over three years. SpaceX has been able to demonstrate a data throughput of 610 megabits per second in flight to the cockpit of a U.S. military C 12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft.

SpaceX has committed to offering Starlink broadband services to the U.S. government but is currently focusing on developing its product for the customer market. Shotwell acknowledged that the area is uncharted territory for the company. "This is a very different business for SpaceX," she said. "It's leveraging space technology, but it's a consumer business." She believes, this service will be an additive for the company, emphasizing the company's focus on space technology and innovation. The details of how the product will be rolled out to the consumers are yet to be disclosed. SpaceX is expected to hire a whole new workforce to deal with sales, tech support and product engineering. “The more engineering we do on the user terminal, the less service people we will have to hire,” said Shotwell. "Terminals are one aspect of the Starlink business that the company has to get right.”

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