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SPACEX launches hundreds of satellites into orbit every year as part of its project to beam cheap WiFi to people’s homes from space.
The scheme is still in its early stages, with testing already underway in the UK and US. So how fast is Starlink, and how much does it cost?
Artist impression of a Starlink satellite dishCredit: spacex
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite project launched by billionaire SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2015.
Musk intends to put 12,000 satellites into Earth’s orbit over next decade, possibly rising to 42,000 in future.
The “mega-constellation” will eventually be able to beam internet coverage to anywhere on the planet, according to SpaceX.
The California company says its network will provide users with high-speed, low-latency internet coverage.
The dish connects to a huge constellation of hundreds of satellitesCredit: SpaceX
Latency is the time it takes to send data from one point to the next.
Because Starlink sats are 60 times closer to Earth than most satellites, SpaceX’s WiFi latency is lower than traditional satellite internet.
The firm sends its satellites up in batches of 60 at a time and has deployed more than 1,400 into orbit since 2019.
They’re launched from Cape Carnaveral in Florida atop unmanned Falcon 9 rockets, which are also built by SpaceX.
How fast is Starlink WiFi and how much does it cost?
Having set up a constellation of more than 1,400 satellites, Starlink is now delivering an early beta version of its servivce in the US and abroad.
The service costs $99/£89 a month on top of a $499/£439 fee for the router and dish.
Once set up, the dish connects to SpaceX’s satellite constellation, promising download speeds of up to 210 megabits per second (Mbps) in future.
That’s more than six times the average download speed in the UK, or faster than 95 per cent of US connections.
Starlink starter boxes contain a special router and a satellite dish that users must affix to their homesCredit: Reddit/Bybby4j
During beta, however, the service maxes out at 150 Mbps, according to SpaceX.
“Users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system,” SpaceX writes on its website.
“There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.”
The cost of the service is also expected to decrease over time, although SpaceX hasn’t revealed how much it hopes to charge users in future.
Where is Starlink available?
Starlink’s beta service is currently available in parts of the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Germany.
Specifically, it’s available to customers who live between 45 and 53 degrees latitude.
That means northern US states, southern parts of Canada and most of the United Kingdom.
SpaceX announced in March 2020 that it was expanding its WFi coverage in the UK to include Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England.
SpaceX launches Starlink satellites in batches of 60Credit: Getty Images – Getty
The company launched the scheme in southern England earlier this year following a successful rollout in the US in 2020.
On its website, SpaceX says it will “continue expansion to near global coverage of the populated world in 2021”.
You can check availability for your location on starlink.com by entering your service address.
If Starlink is not yet available in your area, you can place a deposit to hold your space in line for future service.
SpaceX is owned and operated by billionaire Tesla CEO Elon MuskCredit: Getty – Pool
Other satellite WiFi services
In the UK, Starlink is competing with OneWeb, a failed US satellite company that Downing Street pumped £400million into last year.
The move means Britain is part of a consortium with India’s Bharti Global which won a bidding war for the defunct firm.
OneWeb has 74 satellites in orbit and eventually plans to beam WiFi from space using a constellation numbering in the thousands.
Ministers hope the investment will compensate for the loss of access to the EU’s Galileo space WiFi programme in the wake of Brexit.
In other news, SpaceX recently launched a spy satellite into orbit.
ESA researchers think they’ve spotted an angel on Mars.
And a satellite that can look inside buildings at any time of day has been launched.
What do you think of Starlink? Let us know in the comments!
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