What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX providing satellite Internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), working in combination with ground transceivers. wikipedia.orgStarlink
17 April, 2021 - 07:41pm
Lifting the restriction will let Starlink users operate the satellite internet dish from any location, including a moving RV, according to company CEO Elon Musk.
Later this year, subscribers to SpaceX’s Starlink internet service should get a new perk: the ability to operate their satellite dish anywhere.
CEO Elon Musk confirmed the news on Twitter yesterday.“Yeah, [Starlink] should be fully mobile later this year, so you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion,” he said.
Currently, SpaceX geo-restricts every Starlink dish to the subscriber’s registered residence. Hence, customers generally can’t use the dish at another location unless it's nearby. But the tweet from Musk indicates the company will lift the restriction, enabling customers to move it from one place to the next. In the meantime, the company still needs more time to build up the Starlink satellite network, which currently numbers at more than 1,300 satellites.
“We need a few more satellite launches to achieve complete coverage and some key software upgrades,” Musk added in his tweet.
In November, SpaceX engineers mentioned “mobility options” for Starlink were in the pipeline. This would include moving the Starlink service to different service addresses or even to places without a mailing address. In March, SpaceX then filed an application with the FCC for clearance to operate Starlink on moving vehicles—including trucks, boats, and aircraft—in the US.
Adding the mobility option to Starlink will certainly make the service even more useful for rural users, who’ve often been saddled with poor broadband options. SpaceX’s satellite internet system is currently capable of delivering 80Mbps and higher downloads speeds to subscribers. But over time, the company plans on upgrading the speeds to 1Gbps and then 10Gbps.
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17 April, 2021 - 07:41pm
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Elon Musk's space venture currently has more than 1,350 satellites in orbit, with plans to launch up to 42,000 by mid-2027. Eventually, Starlink — a subdivision of SpaceX — wants to wrap thousands of satellites around the Earth to build a global network.
Starlink's "Better Than Nothing Beta" test went live in October and has since gained over 10,000 users across six different countries.
Starlink's business model directly connects customers to the satellites — there are no telecommunications companies involved in between.
Users sign up to Starlink via its website. When the service is up and running in the area, subscribers receive an email to buy the kit. Starlink may even offer users $99 preorders, like it did in Australia, Mexico and parts of the US, where the network isn't live yet.
Once the order has been accepted, Starlink sends the kit, including a tripod, WiFi router and terminal to customers. Overall, this costs users $499 for the kit and $99 for the monthly Starlink subscription for up to 210 Megabits per second. Customers then set up the kit themselves.
Starlink is rapidly expanding — it plans on attaching antennas to moving vehicles to connect them to the satellite network.
Not everyone is fully on board with Starlink's dominance. Local internet service providers in the US say Starlink is using "unproven" technology with its satellite constellation. They have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into its application for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, for which Starlink was awarded $885 million.
Project Kuiper, a subsidiary of Amazon, came to light in 2018 when government filings revealed the tech giant was going ahead with building a global space-based internet service.
The project aims to blast 3,236 satellites to 630 kilometers in orbit, very close to Starlink's satellites at 550 kilometres.
In January, the FCC gave Project Kuiper regulatory approval to launch its satellite fleet into space by July 2029 and connect with antennas on the Earth to provide internet service.
50% of its satellites should be operational by July 30, 2026.
It's not yet clear what Project Kuiper's satellites will look like or which rocket they will be launched on, but Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin could send them into orbit via its New Glenn rocket.
Sources told Insider in 2019 that Project Kuiper's headquarters are a few miles from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
OneWeb is a British-owned satellite broadband provider that currently has 146 satellites at 1,200 km in orbit and plans to have 648 satellites in total to offer a global network.
The firm was rescued from bankruptcy by the UK government and India's Bharti Group in November and now pledges to invest $1 billion in the company.
OneWeb wants to provide internet to the whole of the UK by June. Its most recent launch on March 25 will deliver internet coverage to the top of the globe down to the 50th degree latitude, covering countries such as Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, the Nordic countries, and northern Europe.
The UK firm offers a business-to-business model, whereby it provides satellite internet to telecommunications companies, which then distribute the service to customers.
Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulation and engagement at OneWeb told Insider the company has had discussions with the government about becoming part of the UK's $6.9 billion Project Gigabit — just like Starlink.
OneWeb and Starlink satellites almost collided into each other in orbit on April 3 that could have sent thousands of debris pieces flying around space, adding to the space junk crisis.
McLaughlin told Insider on Monday it was "no one's fault but a big challenge" to avoid this from happening.
Hughes Net, the biggest satellite internet provider in the US, relies on satellites positioned 22,500 miles away in geostationary orbit to beam internet back down to Earth.
The main difference between the low-Earth orbit satellites and the bigger geostationary (GEO) satellites is that the latter are much further away in orbit and as a result can cause second-long delays in video calls and other technology.
But GEO satellites are in a fixed position, so unlike LEO satellites, they don't move around in orbit and target their internet service in one specific area.
Hughes, with more than 1.5 million subscribers, has six satellites in orbit, which cover various parts of North and South America and Canada, including Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.
Hughes Net spokesperson Sharyn Nerenberg told Insider the company is purely focused on providing internet to the Americas.
The last satellite Hughes launched was in June 2018 and it's aiming to send another one into orbit, named Jupiter 3, in the second half of 2022. Nerenberg said Jupiter 3 is going to be the largest commercial satellite ever launched.
Those who sign up for Hughes Net receive a kit through the post and get it installed by an outsourced company.
Costs for Hughes satellite service range from $59.99 to $149.99 per month for 25 Mbps download speeds. The kit is priced at $249.99 with a $199 installation charge, taking the total purchase price to $449.98 — $50 cheaper than SpaceX's Starlink.
Nerenberg also said Hughes offers community WiFi hotspots via its satellite network to small rural areas in Latin America for those who can't afford a subscription.
Telesat, headed by Dan Goldberg, already has 15 GEO satellites more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above Earth.
The Canadian company is also planning a LEO constellation called "Lightspeed" — the first batch of 298 satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space, are expected to be launched by early 2023. The goal is to provide full global service by 2024.
Goldberg confirmed during the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum on April 6, per Space News, that Lightspeed would cost $5 billion. This much cheaper than SpaceX's and Amazon's projects which exceed the $10 billion mark.
He told Reuters on Sunday that Telesat is "in the sweet spot" with pricing.
In 2019, Telesat signed a launch deal with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to use its rockets, such as the proposed New Glenn, to blast its LEO satellites into orbit.
David Wendling, Telesat's chief technical officer, told Reuters the company has three other launch deals in the pipeline.
Californian-based ViaSat operates five GEO satellites around 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth.
It's adding to this constellation at the start of 2022 by putting three "ultra-high capacity GEO satellites" into orbit, which will give global coverage by 2023, a ViaSat spokesperson told Insider.
ViaSat is also planning on putting 288 satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) by 2026.
Mark Dankberg, ViaSat's executive chairman and co-founder, told Insider on Thursday that having both GEO and LEO satellites complement each other.
He said ViaSat are trying to create a "multiorbital constellation where you use GEO satellites and LEO satellites in a way that look seamless to users."
Dankberg gave an example of the benefits of using different orbital satellites for videos online: The LEO satellites can offer the latency — the delay between a user's actions and the internet's response — and the lower cost bandwidth from GEO satellites.
Dankberg said it's common for companies to become "frenemies" in the space industry. Despite having a launch contract with SpaceX, ViaSat is concerned about the thousands of satellites SpaceX is putting into orbit.
Launching more satellites leads to a higher chance of collision, resulting in more space debris which could be a "doomsday scenario for space," according to Dankberg.
Eutelsat is a European satellite operator that has 39 GEO satellites positioned at 46,000 kilometres away in orbit.
The company currently provides internet to parts of Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East and plans to launch another satellite called Konnect VHTS, which will cover the rest of Europe.
Michel Azibert, Eutelsat's deputy CEO, told Insider on Friday: "Konnect VHTS will be a game-changer, enabling Eutelsat to provide powerful connectivity seamlessly to the end user at a price comparable to those of terrestrial operators."
Prices for Eutelsat's satellite company range between €30 and €70 per month for speeds between 30 and 100 Mbps, with an upfront fee between €49 to €149 depending on the market, Azibert said.
He said the pricing was "well below Starlink's and very well adapted to the rural markets that we are targeting in EMEA."
Eutelsat's satellites "are a reliable solution to cost-effectively address areas and regions where fiber will remain too costly to deploy," he added.
Eutelsat, founded in 1977, sends its satellites into space from Vienna. The first satellite it launched was in 1983.
17 April, 2021 - 07:41pm
Elon Musk’s privately held rocket company SpaceX raised around $1.16 billion via equity funding over the last two months per SEC filings, with the company now reportedly being valued at $74 billion. This compares to a previous valuation of $46 billion based on a $2 billion fundraise last August. So what has really changed for SpaceX to command a 60% jump in valuation?
See our dashboard analysis detailing SpaceX’s Revenues and Valuation for the underlying numbers on launches, revenues per launch, and valuation multiples.
There is an increasing shift from government-driven space programs toward enterprise-backed programs and SpaceX has a nice track record of winning contracts from government agencies, particularly from NASA and the U.S Department of Defense. Starlink, the company’s satellite-based Internet service - which we see as a big driver of SpaceX’s long-term potential - went into beta testing a few months ago and should start generating revenues this year. (related Starlink Valuation: What Could SpaceX’s Starlink Service Be Worth) We also expect SpaceX’s total number of launches to grow this year, with total revenue expanding to about $1.6 billion. Moreover, new areas such as space travel and point-to-point transport around the earth are also on SpaceX’s radar and could help revenues in the medium to long term.
There are likely some market-related factors driving SpaceX’s valuation as well. With interest rates still remaining low compared to historical levels, investors have a greater appetite to bet on futuristic companies working on the cutting-edge and “moonshot” projects. This is likely helping SpaceX. Moreover, investors likely view SpaceX as a solid play on the emerging space economy. Although there are other publicly listed plays on Space, SpaceX has a strong record of innovation and execution, having the distinction of carrying out the first commercial manned launch, while raising the bar for reusable rocket technology.
SpaceX’s satellite-based Internet business, Starlink, is seen as the biggest driver of the space exploration company’s valuation, given its large addressable market. (Related: SpaceX’s Revenues and Valuation) So how is the service shaping up? Starlink went into beta testing about four months ago, providing services in the northern United States, Canada, and some parts of Europe and the company says that it now has over 10,000 users globally. SpaceX charges beta customers $99 per month, and there’s also an upfront charge of about $500 that goes towards the satellite dish and related kit. The company is reporting speeds of between 50 to 150 Mega bits per second on the service. While this makes Starlink’s service pricier and slower than some mainstream broadband offerings, both metrics are likely to improve as the company builds scale (more satellites and ground stations) and signs on more users. The company has already launched over 1,000 working satellites for Starlink and intends to have a total of around 42k satellites once the project is complete. SpaceX was recently awarded close to $900 million in subsidies by the FCC, under the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund which aims to bring high-speed Internet across the U.S., particularly in rural areas. This could also help the economics of the service, to a certain extent. That said, competition is also mounting. Wireless carriers have been betting big on 5G technology which can offer gigabit-speed internet over wide areas, competing head-on with the fixed-line internet services. It remains to be seen if SpaceX’s service can offer customers an attractive value proposition as competition increases.
View our interactive dashboard analysis, ‘Starlink Valuation: What Could SpaceX’s Starlink Service Be Worth?’ to modify our key assumptions to arrive at your own estimate for Starlink’s valuation as it heads toward an IPO.
SpaceX recently indicated that it could spin off and pursue an IPO for its satellite-based Internet business, Starlink. The Starlink service, which is likely to see operations begin later this year, aims to provide high-speed Internet globally in a cost-effective manner by leveraging a constellation of several thousand satellites. While SpaceX has not given a definitive timeline for an IPO, it has indicated that it could occur within the next few years. According to our analysis, we estimate that Starlink could be worth about $30 billion by 2025, assuming it generates revenues of about $10.4 billion then and is valued using a P/S multiple of about 3x. Below, we provide a breakdown of the opportunity Starlink provides to SpaceX and the potential risks.
View our interactive dashboard analysis, ‘Starlink Valuation: What Could SpaceX’s Starlink Service Be Worth?’ to modify our key assumptions to arrive at your own estimate for Starlink’s valuation as it heads towards an IPO.
We project that Starlink’s first full year of service will be 2021, with coverage spanning a large portion of the global population by 2025. We also expect that Starlink will primarily compete with fixed-line broadband services, as its receivers are expected to be somewhat large for truly portable use (likely pizza-box sized).
2020 has created many pricing discontinuities that can offer attractive trading opportunities. For example, you’ll be surprised how counter-intuitive the stock valuation is for General Motors vs Comcast.
17 April, 2021 - 07:41pm
“Service uptime, bandwidth & latency are improving rapidly. Probably out of beta this summer”, Mr Musk tweeted. The change could mean more people will be able to sign up to the service, which currently has over 10,000 users.
In a subsequent post, Mr Musk said that it will also be “fully mobile later this year, so you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion.”
He added: “We need a few more satellite launches to achieve compete coverage [and] some key software upgrades.”
This is not the first time that the company has proposed beaming internet to moving vehicles. Elon Musk’s space company wrote in filings to the United States’ Federal Communications Commission in March that it “seeks authority to deploy and operate these earth stations as VMES throughout the United States and its territories ... in the territorial waters of the United States and throughout international waters worldwide, and ... on U.S.-registered aircraft operating worldwide and non-U.S.-registered aircraft operating in U.S. airspace”.
Mr Musk later clarified on Twitter that this did not refer to Tesla vehicles. “Not connecting Tesla cars to Starlink, as our terminal is much too big”, the CEO tweeted. “This is for aircraft, ships, large trucks [and] RVs.”
There are currently over 1,000 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit around the world, with users in the UK and US already signed up for early-access. SpaceX plans to build a constellation of up to 40,000 satellites over the next few years.
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Mr Musk has also claimed that Starlink will double in speed in 2021.“Speed will double to ~300Mb/s & latency will drop to ~20ms later this year,” he said, adding that coverage will include “most of Earth by end of year, all by next year, then it’s all about densifying coverage.”
However, with such developments come concerns:Starlink’s satellites already orbit the Earth lower than many other crafts, and Amazon’s competing Project Kupiter claims that allowing them to operate lower would interfere with other satellites.
The Satellite Constellations 1 (Satcon1) workshop also found that that constellations of bright satellites will fundamentally change ground-based optical and infrared astronomy.
17 April, 2021 - 07:41pm
CEO Elon Musk says that SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service will “probably [be] out of beta this summer” as the company continues to rapidly improve “service uptime, bandwidth, and latency.”
On top of Musk’s belief that Starlink will be ready for primetime as few as 3-5 months from now, the SpaceX executive also believes that the company will have enough satellites operational to enable customers to take their Starlink dishes just about anywhere the service is allowed and even install and operate them on mobile vehicles.
This is accurate. Service uptime, bandwidth & latency are improving rapidly. Probably out of beta this summer.
Currently, Starlink beta users are restricted – for a variety of reasons – to hexagonal “cells” with diameters of ~15 km (9.3 mi) and areas of 150 square kilometers (~60 mi). It’s unclear what exactly those cells represent, but the most likely answer is that SpaceX has to parcel up the areas the Starlink constellation is able to cover so it can use that system to avoid saturating the young, incomplete network and best ensure that it doesn’t sell internet service to customers outside of that coverage map. Part of the rationale is also technical, according to SpaceX’s official Starlink FAQ.
Yeah, should be fully mobile later this year, so you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion. We need a few more satellite launches to achieve compete coverage & some key software upgrades.
According to Musk, those “cell” restrictions will be greatly relaxed “later this year,” meaning that users that purchase Starlink dishes and pay for service should be able to take their dishes anywhere Starlink is allowed and even use them on moving vehicles like “an RV or truck.” To get to that point, though, SpaceX will have to ensure that Starlink coverage is virtually uninterrupted and implement several “key software upgrades” – no surprise for a satellite communication service attempting to do something no other has.
More importantly, though, SpaceX is primarily focused on improving Starlink service for existing users and getting the constellation and network to the point that they’re ready for far more aggressive expansion. That means cutting down on network outages and software bugs to reduce downtime, ensuring better download speeds and latency, optimizing for a more consistent experience, and continuously upgrading satellite, user terminal, and ground station hardware and software.
As is tradition, less than two weeks ago, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell was confident – but not quite as confident or specific as Musk – about Starlink graduating out of its beta phase. On April 6th, she made it clear that SpaceX’s primary goal is to make sure that Starlink internet is “a really great product” before exiting the beta phase and that the company “doesn’t have a [public] timeframe” for when it might be ready.
Musk’s “summer 2021” target is thus more likely a stretch goal, meaning that it’s probably more accurate to assume that Starlink might be ready to exit beta sometime before the end of 2021.
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