In a public filing to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Elon Musk’s SpaceX revealed that its Starlink satellite internet service has “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad.”
The filing was part of a petition to have the FCC designate Starlink as an ‘Eligible Telecommunications Carrier’ (ETC), which would allow it to provide service to regions in states like Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
CNBC reports that SpaceX was awarded access to those regions under the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund, an auction seeking to bring broadband services to rural areas.
However, SpaceX’s quest to expand Starlink to more regions goes beyond its work with the FCC. Currently, Starlink offers service to select customers in the northern U.S., Canada and the U.K. Some Canadians in the Starlink beta have already spoken out about how the service is a game-changer. In January, Starlink opened up its beta to eligible Canadians and just this week, SpaceX announced plans to launch over 100 satellites.
SpaceX says Starlink performance isn’t “theoretical or experimental”
Starlink is an ambitious project seeking to build an interconnected internet network powered by thousands of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites. Customers need to buy into a relatively expensive $649 hardware set up just to connect to Starlink internet. In Canada, the internet service costs $129 per month, which brings the initial cost of using Starlink up to $778.
For some, that’s a lot of money to spend on what many consider to be an experimental service. SpaceX believes otherwise.
“Starlink’s performance is not theoretical or experimental … [and] is rapidly accelerating in real time as part of its public beta program,” SpaceX wrote in the filing.
The company went on to detail that Starlink’s internet service meets “and exceeds 100/20 megabits per second (‘Mbps’) throughput.” Additionally, Starlink says its network achieves “round-trip latency measurements at or below 31 milliseconds” for 95 percent of measurements. Finally, Starlink is “successfully testing standalone voice service” over its network.
While that performance may seem lacklustre for those who live in urban areas where fibre internet is standard, for many people living in rural Canada, that kind of internet is hard to come by or costly.
Although Starlink is still in an early development stage, it holds a lot of promise for more affordable, more reliable internet.