Elon Musk is proud to win 100,000 customers with Starlink, his satellite internet access

Elon Musk announced on Twitter that 100,000 Starlink kits have found buyers. The service is deployed in 14 countries, including France.

A tweet and a number. Monday, August 23, Elon Musk revealed sending 100,000 connection kits to Starlink satellites, which rotate by the hundreds around the Earth. This is the first time that the American entrepreneur has given a quantified overview of the commercial appeal of his project, which consists of taking an Internet connection through space to places that are not well served by terrestrial infrastructure.

In the process, the founder of SpaceX – the astronautics company that pilots Starlink – indicated the list of countries in which the service is at least partially open: in addition to the United States, there are Anglo-Saxon nations (Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland) as well as West Eastern European countries (Germany, France, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark and Portugal).

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Three photos showing different sequences of a Falcon 9 rocket taking off, with Starlink satellites on board. // Source: SpaceX

cover remote areas

Elon Musk does not detail the distribution of these 100,000 connection kits between these 14 countries. The Starlink program is primarily intended for individuals located in remote, rural, or hard-to-reach locations. However, the deployment of Starlink in Western Europe, for example, raises questions, because fixed and (very) high mobile speeds are already widespread.

The installation of the Starlink program in France also calls into question, given the reality of coverage of the territory in 4G and in ADSL and optical fiber. But if the metropolis does not seem like an easy market to conquer, perhaps it is in overseas France that the service can make its mark – if the price imagined by SpaceX does not prove to be a counterpoint to Internet users in the French overseas departments and territories.

Currently, the purchase of the Starlink kit costs 499 euros. Add 59 euros for shipping and commissioning costs. Finally, the subscription itself comes to 99 euros per month. In exchange for all that expense, Starlink promises significant speeds and low latency to compete with some fiber-optic offerings. Starlink announces 300 Mbit/s for 2021.

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If Starlink seems very interesting to cover very remote regions, it turns out that the service is currently being launched mainly in western countries, many of which already have good internet access. // Source: Starlink

Earlier, SpaceX explained, in a document sent to the Federal Communications Commission, that 700,000 Americans would be interested in subscribing to its satellite internet access service. A significant number, which is not (yet?) reflected in the one revealed by Elon Musk. In February 2021, SpaceX claimed 10,000 customers for its program.

Of all the countries in which SpaceX is present today, it is perhaps in the USA that the company has the best card to play: the country is very vast, the deployment of broadband and very high speed is not satisfactory and the competition is slow, which has no favorable impact on subscription prices. Potentially, SpaceX could disrupt the activities of more traditional operators.

In addition to individuals, SpaceX also intends to offer its service to communities – for example, to connect a school or a library – and for certain transportation. Mobile antennas are provided on trucks, boats or planes. The airline sector seems to be of particular interest to the company, in the sense of delivering Wi-Fi on board aircraft, a service that already exists on several flights.

Tens of thousands of satellites planned

The Starlink program began in the 2010s, with the deployment of the first experimental satellites in 2018, as well as the receipt of the first authorizations from the regulator. The deployment of the first operational satellites began a year later, while the launch of the service in beta took place the following year. Since then, dozens of shootings have taken place.

The satellites, which are sent in groups of sixty, are now over 1,700 in orbit. In the long term, SpaceX, which deploys them in low Earth orbit, wants to have a constellation of a few tens of thousands of machines – a fleet of 42,000 satellites is mentioned, which is considerable. It will take SpaceX years to get so many machines into orbit.

All these low-orbiting satellites obviously present major challenges, both in terms of visual pollution for astronomers and in managing this traffic around the Earth in order to avoid collisions. According to Elon Musk, most of the globe will be covered by the end of the year. The whole earth will be served in the following year. So the challenge will be to tighten the mesh.

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Source: SpaceX

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