- SpaceX is now allowing almost anyone to make a $99 refundable pre-order deposit on Starlink - with satellite broadband service in many areas in the southern United States now promised to be coming in "mid to late 2021".
- Starlink has accepted another wave of beta testers, with customers as far south as Colorado, Missouri, and Virginia getting invitations to place orders.
- Keep in mind - Starlink is still NOT supporting mobility! And there is no guarantee that the first generation hardware will ever allow for connectivity away from your fixed location registered service address.
SpaceX last night (February 8th) opened the doors for anyone to be able to sign up for Starlink satellite broadband service - for the first time allowing customers world wide to place orders and make an initial $99 deposit.
But in most locations these are just pre-orders - and actual Starlink service in many areas may not be available until "mid to late 2021", or even 2022.
"Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis."
But as we warned last month...
Though SpaceX will let you order service and enter a shipping address anywhere you wish, customers need to know that Starlink will NOT currently work while away from your designated home Service Address.
And nomads need to keep in mind - there is no guarantee that this first generation of Starlink hardware will ever support mobile usage.
In other words - beware before buying!
Fortunately - the $99 deposit SpaceX is asking for IS fully refundable, and it is primarily to express interest and hold your place in line.
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Starlink Coverage Expands Again
In addition to opening up pre-orders, SpaceX has expanded the area where actual beta service is being offered to a whole range of new states - pushing the officially covered latitudes from 37.0°N to 54.7°N.
This means that customers with service addresses in Northern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Virginia, and most other states north of 37.0 degrees latitude are now being offered the opportunity to order Starlink service - if there is available capacity in their home service area.
Global Coverage Coming
SpaceX has also begun accepting pre-orders in countries around the world - and Elon Musk tweeted to confirm that the current US pricing for hardware and service is intended to apply everywhere:
"It’s meant to be the same price in all countries. Only difference should be taxes & shipping."
But actually delivering coverage worldwide will require a LOT of ground stations, and there are a lot of legal and licensing hoops that SpaceX will need to jump through in each different country too.
On January 25th - SpaceX launched its first ten satellites into a polar orbit, which will eventually expand coverage into Alaska and northern Canada and other far-north (and far south) locations.
Since ground stations in these remote areas will be impossible - satellites in these orbits will be the first to make use of inter-satellite laser links.
“All sats launched next year will have laser links. Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are v0.9.”
This means that the bulk of the Starlink constellation will only begin to get upgraded with lasers in 2022, pushing out a few years the dreams of super-fast broadband in the middle of the ocean.
Nomads Not Wanted, At Least Not Yet
As we reported on last month - SpaceX has had a problem with customers ordering Starlink using an address in one area, and trying to use the satellite service elsewhere - only to end up disappointed.
The SpaceX FAQ explains the limitations:
Can I change my service address?
Starlink is only approved for use at the Service Address you provided when you signed up on starlink.com. When placing your initial order, you will have the option to select a different Shipping Address to receive your Starlink packages.
If you have already ordered Starlink and your service address is changing please contact our Support team by logging into your account.
Can I travel with Starlink, or move it to a different address?
Starlink satellites are scheduled to send internet down to all users within a designated area on the ground. This designated area is referred to as a cell.
Your Starlink is assigned to a single cell. If you move your Starlink outside of its assigned cell, a satellite will not be scheduled to serve your Starlink and you will not receive internet. This is constrained by geometry and is not arbitrary geofencing.
Based on reports from current beta testers - if you travel more than around 15 miles or so away from your registered service address, you risk your Starlink dish becoming completely unusable until you return home.
As we've been warning for the past year - the initial Starlink service is NOT mobile friendly!
This is probably not a permanent limitation though.
Back in November SpaceX revealed that mobile-friendly options ARE in the works - but they will require software updates, and potentially new hardware too:
"Mobility options - including moving your Starlink to different service addresses (or places that don't even have addresses!) - is coming once we are able to increase our coverage by launching more satellites & rolling out new hardware and software."
Nomads hoping for Starlink nirvana are warned to NOT jump into the beta until these issues are addressed and clarified.
And be aware - when mobile options and service plans are made available, the costs might end up different than the $499 dish and $99/mo unlimited data plan currently being made available to fixed location Starlink customers.
Starlink Is Still Just Getting Started
Though SpaceX reports that it already has 10,000 customers activated - Starlink is still very early in its beta rollout, all things considered.
The important thing for nomads to keep in mind is that this initial Starlink rollout is explicitly focused on remote schools and rural residential service - bringing fast low-latency internet to places it has never been available before.
Mobile users looking for something they can take on the road (or water) are not a target market yet, and urban or suburban customers looking for an alternative to cable aren't SpaceX's focus either.
Over time Starlink has the potential to be revolutionary for nomads - but just not yet.
So keep all of these limitations in mind before sending off $99 to order to hold your place in line...
"For orders in areas that will be serviceable later this year, the Starlink team will provide periodic updates on availability and you will receive an email notification prior to shipment."
For a deeper dive into the history and aspirations of Starlink, see our post (and video) from June:
And our major update from November:
- Mobile Satellite Internet Options - Our featured guide on all the current and future satellite internet options of interest to RVers and cruisers.
- All our our Satellite Internet Resources - Our collection of guides, gear center entries and news coverage on satellite internet.
And here is all of our recent satellite internet coverage:
- Amazon's Project Kuiper Update: First Prototype Satellites to Launch Q4 2022 Posted on: November 22, 2021