Elon Musk is back in the news, but (thankfully) not because of more Twitter antics. This time around, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is nabbing headlines for a virtual appearance at Mobile World Congress (MWC) where he spoke about SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink.
During a video appearance, Musk forecast total investment costs in Starlink between $20 and $30 billion USD (between roughly $24.8 and $37.2 billion CAD). Further, Musk went on to mention that Starlink had “two quite significant partnerships with major country telcos,” noting that the partnerships could help SpaceX plug the gaps in 5G mobile networks.
Musk also predicted that total Starlink customer numbers would reach half a million in the next year. Just a few days ago, Musk tweeted that Starlink “exceeded the strategically important threshold of 69,420” simultaneous active users. Musk followed up the tweet by announcing Starlink’s 72 orbital planes would go live in August, bringing coverage everywhere except the polar regions, which would take another six months.
Regarding telecom partnerships, Musk spoke at MWC about discussions with possible partners. Musk explained that several countries included rural coverage as requirements in 5G licenses. Starlink could help fill in gaps in rural coverage. Further, Musk noted that telecom operators with remote cell towers could use Starlink to connect those towers back to the core network, which could reduce the costs of running cable through certain difficult terrain.
Finally, Musk explained that Starlink was selling terminals — the satellite dishes used to connect users to Starlink satellites — for half price, but was working to reduce the cost from over $1,000 USD (about $1,238.79 CAD) to $300-$500 (roughly $371.64-$619.39 CAD) in the next 12 months. In Canada, Starlink costs $649 for the hardware, plus $129 per month for the service, $65 shipping and about $93 in tax, for a total cost of about $936 to get up and running.
Reducing that upfront cost should make Starlink more viable. However, many Canadians who already have Starlink have spoken out that, even in its current ‘beta’ phase, Starlink offers much better service for less money than other rural internet options from Canadian providers like Bell and Rogers.
During his MWC appearance, Musk said that if Starlink can “succeed in not going bankrupt, then that’ll be great, and we can move on from there.”
Starlink definitely has a lot of potential and could be a great option for many people both in Canada and around the world who live in remote areas with expensive, subpar internet access. At the same time, critics have questioned the viability of a business model that targets those regions, especially for something as expensive as Starlink.
You can learn more about Starlink in Canada here.