In a groundbreaking announcement, SpaceX has lifted the waitlist for its Starlink satellite internet service in the United States. The development is a result of deploying second-generation Starlink satellites with four times the capacity of their predecessors. Now, any interested customer can subscribe to Starlink without any delay, marking a significant turning point in the satellite internet landscape.
Deployment of our second generation Starlink satellites, which have 4x more capacity than the first gen, enable us to connect even more people no matter where they live.
— Starlink (@Starlink) October 2, 2023
Overcoming High Demand and Network Congestion
Since its inception, Starlink has faced high demand, causing delays for new subscribers who sometimes had to wait weeks or even months to get access. Existing users were not immune either, frequently experiencing network congestion that slowed down internet speeds.
However, SpaceX has been steadily chipping away at these challenges by launching hundreds of additional satellites, thereby expanding Starlink’s overall capacity. The efforts have finally paid off, with the waitlist being completely removed, particularly in the southeastern U.S., which was one of the last remaining holdout regions.
The Numbers Game: Satellites and Subscribers
As of now, SpaceX has a total of 4,845 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell. While some users and even Starlink have reported slower-than-expected speeds, the second-gen satellites promise to deliver faster internet, along with new dish hardware that might offer even better performance.
Starlink has added about one million customers in the last nine months, boasting a total of over 2 million customers. This growth has yet to meet the company’s ambitious target of 20 million users by 2022, but it’s a significant leap forward.
Financial Aspects: Revenue and Pricing
While Starlink reported $1.4 billion in revenue at the end of 2022, it hasn’t yet reached its projected $12 billion target. The pricing could be a factor here. The service is not cheap, with plans ranging from $250 to $5,000 a month, in addition to a one-time equipment fee of $2,500. Yet, the subscriber numbers are steadily climbing, pointing to a positive trajectory.
Global Reach and Social Impact
Starlink is not just a commercial venture; it has also had a social impact. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Starlink supplied thousands of dishes to Ukrainians and assisted Ukrainian troops. The service was also activated in Iran during a period of network outages amid protests. These actions showcase the potential for satellite internet in geopolitical contexts.
Regulatory Milestones and Future Hardware
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted SpaceX the approval to operate two new variants of its Starlink satellite dishes. These include a compact, more portable version and a second, high-performance dish. These new hardware options promise to significantly accelerate Starlink’s market penetration, especially in rural and remote areas.
Starlink is facing competition from other players like Amazon’s Project Kuiper and the EU’s €6 billion multi-orbit constellation project. While these ventures are still in their early stages, they indicate a burgeoning market for satellite internet services.
The Road Ahead
With plans to deploy up to 42,000 satellites by mid-2027, Starlink is setting itself up for an even more expansive global reach. While challenges like declining download speeds and missed revenue targets exist, the removal of the waitlist and the 2-million-subscriber milestone indicate Starlink’s substantial potential in transforming global internet access.
The removal of Starlink’s waitlist represents a watershed moment in the evolution of satellite internet. Whether it’s the promise of high-speed connectivity, the lifting of access restrictions, or the geopolitical applications, Starlink is poised to redefine what we can expect from internet service providers. With no more waitlists to hold them back, the sky is not the limit for Starlink; it’s just the beginning.