Elon Musk says Starlink speed doubling to 300 Mbit/s

Internet-from-space service Starlink will see its speeds double this year, says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Its average speed will reach approximately 300 megabits per second, with its latency dropping to around 20 milliseconds "later this year," he said in a Twitter exchange. Ultimately, says the company, speeds will hit 10 gigabits per second.

Full speed ahead: SpaceX Falcon 9 take off carrying Starlink satellite payload - according to a Tweet from Elon Musk, Starlink speeds are doubling. (Source: Space X on Flickr)
Full speed ahead: SpaceX Falcon 9 take off carrying Starlink satellite payload – according to a Tweet from Elon Musk, Starlink speeds are doubling.
(Source: Space X on Flickr)

The satellite-run service, which SpaceX is constructing, will reach "most of Earth by end of year, all by next year, then it's all about densifying coverage," adds Musk. So anyone with a Starlink kit, which costs $499 in the US and £439 in the UK, will be able to access the satellite Internet network by the end of 2022, assuming they pay a subscription fee of £89 a month in Britain and $99 a month in America.

SpaceX currently describes its space Internet service as a "Better than Nothing Beta." Two weeks ago, it opened preorders for service expected to begin in the second half of this year. Customers signing up in London received an email saying in the beta stage, they should expect speeds from 50 to 150 megabits per second, and "brief periods of no connectivity at all."

The "densifying coverage" refers to the fact that only a limited number of available slots will initially be on offer in each geographical region. Its latency currently is at or below 31 milliseconds for a round trip, 95% of the time, SpaceX has told the FCC.

Space to rural Ireland, copy

Meanwhile a remote location in rural Ireland will host a secret antenna pilot for Starlink. This is likely to involve small antennas being installed in the remote Black Valley, 32km from Killarney, after Starlink representatives approached Kerry County Council.

Mobile network connection is patchy in the rural area, which saw a community broadband project last year at the local school, though this was ring-fenced for school purposes only. It is, in other words, an ideal representative of Starlink's key use case.

These are out-of-the-way areas, like the 40% of the globe without access to the Internet.

At least some initial customers seem happy, including a Reddit user who goes by the name of Wolf Lodge, who installed a Starlink dish in an off-grid cabin at 11,000 feet elevation in the Rocky Mountains.

A YouTube video played smoothly, with no buffering, said the user. In County Kerry, one third of all premises, numbering 26,905 homes and businesses, do not have access to high-speed broadband. Home working and schooling during the coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare for local residents, says Kerry county councilor Michael Cahill. The county council had to sign a strict non-disclosure agreement about the pilot link, which will initially involve just a single household.

Chief executive tweeter

Musk is fond of Twitter, where he has 47.7 million followers. Many of his announcements appear on the platform.

Even if he occasionally, like on February 2, flounces off the platform with ultimately short-lived statements like "off Twitter for a while."

Although after two recent tweets, he lost $15.2 billion and his place as the world's wealthiest individual, which was usurped by departing Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos.

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On Saturday, he commented Bitcoin and Ether prices "do seem a bit high." The thing is, his company Tesla had just bought $1.5 billion in Bitcoin a few weeks before. In another, he said Tesla's electric SUV would be available as an "off-menu" option only, after he decided he wasn't satisfied with its range.

Musk's quirk also appears in the Starlink terms of service agreement. Services provided to, on or in orbit around the planet Earth or the Moon will be governed by California law, says the agreement. But "the parties recognize Mars as a free planet" and agree "no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities."

So disputes will "be settled through self-governing principles" there.

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Pádraig Belton, contributing editor special to Light Reading

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