SpaceX’s Starlink Targets January for Wider Public Beta Test-news

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(Credit: SpaceX)

If you’ve been eager to try out SpaceX’s satellite internet service, Starlink, there’s good news: The company plans on kicking off a “wider” public beta early next year. 

“Notably we’re planning to move from a limited beta to a wider beta in late January, [which] should give more users an opportunity to participate,” SpaceX engineers said during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” over the weekend.

Currently, SpaceX has only been offering beta invites to people based in the northern US and southern Canada. But the company plans on expanding Starlink’s coverage as it successfully launches more low-orbiting satellites to power the broadband network. 

SpaceX didn’t specify the scope of the wider beta. But early next year, the company plans on using Starlink to supply free broadband to families in a Texas school district. So there’s hope the beta could hit the southern US soon. The satellite broadband network is currently capable of delivering 100Mbps+ download speeds at a latency of around 30 milliseconds, according to beta users. 

During the Reddit AMA, engineers also addressed whether SpaceX would one day implement data caps when currently you’re free to download as much as you want over the service.  

“So we really don’t want to implement restrictive data caps like people have encountered with satellite internet in the past,” the company said. “Right now we’re still trying to figure a lot of stuff out—we might have to do something in the future to prevent abuse and just ensure that everyone else gets quality service.”

SpaceX wants Starlink to supply global coverage some time in 2021, meaning potentially millions of customers could soon be using the service. But the company promises the service will remain fast, despite any surge in new users.  

“This is not going to be like your regular satellite internet where it gets way too crowded—as we launch more satellites over time the network will get increasingly great, not increasingly worse,” SpaceX added.  

Here’s some other interesting tidbits from the Reddit AMA:

  • The dish that beta users have been receiving to test Starlink is certified to operate between -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). 
  • The dish also has self-heating capabilities. A “snow-melting” capability is in the works via an upcoming software update. 
  • Beta testers are currently limited to using Starlink at their home addresses. But the company plans on lifting the restriction through new mobility options via “new hardware and software.”

The other major takeaway is how SpaceX needs more expertise to help it develop Starlink, and reduce the hardware costs. So the company also used the Reddit AMA as a recruiting call for product engineers, designers, and software developers. Anyone can send their resume to the company or apply directly on the company’s job postings. 

To become a beta tester, go to Starlink.com and sign up for the email newsletter, which has been sending out the beta invites to applicable customers. The Starlink beta costs $99 a month, and an additional $499 one-time fee for the satellite dish and router/Wi-Fi modem.

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