Internet from low Earth orbit just got a lot faster — and even more expensive. SpaceX revealed today a new pricey, high-performance tier to its nascent Starlink satellite internet service.
Called Starlink Premium, the option promises to deliver speeds of between 150 and 500Mbps, an upgrade from the 50 to 250 Mbps advertised by the standard tier. Upload speeds are doubled and now reach 20 to 40Mbps. Latency, one of the major challenges for satellite internet, remains at an industry-leading 20 to 40 milliseconds, which isn’t too far off “terrestrial” broadband’s 12 ms to 37 ms range.
“Starlink Premium has more than double the antenna capability of Starlink, delivering faster internet speeds and higher throughput for the highest demand users, including businesses,” the company’s website reads.
While these speed boosts, which are enabled by a larger high-performance antenna, are significant, most customers are likely to be turned off by the high cost. The standard Starlink internet service costs $US499 ($693) for the cat-attracting dish plus $US99 ($137) a month for the subscription, whereas the new Premium package raises the hardware price to $US2,500 ($3,471) and the subscription to $US500 ($694) a month. For comparison, AT&T just rolled out 2 gig and 5 gig fibre tiers for $US110 ($153) and $US180 ($250) a month, respectively.
At those prices, it’s no surprise that this new premium tier is mainly for “small offices, storefronts, and super users across the globe.” This suggests the Premium tier is meant for enterprise users or wealthy folks living in remote areas where a hardwired broadband link might not be available.
Along with faster upload and download speeds, the new Starlink tier will supposedly perform better in “extreme weather conditions,” and customers who shell out for the internet plan will receive 24/7 VIP support.
SpaceX is currently taking pre-orders for the Premium tier and expects to deliver the first units in the second quarter of this year. There is no word yet on a timeline for fulfilling those orders, but we should point out that SpaceX has faced backlash from customers of its basic tier after it was forced to push back delivery dates due to the ongoing chip storage. SpaceX sent a mass email to pre-order customers apologizing for the delay. Some orders originally slated to arrive in mid-to-late 2021 were pushed back to 2022.
Starlink, a branch of SpaceX, has launched around 2,000 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit and is authorised by the FCC to launch around 12,000. The eventual goal will be to add 30,000 or so to that total and provide continuous global coverage with a focus on areas with limited connectivity. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in August last year that Starlink has shipped 100,000 satellite terminals to customers across 14 countries.