SpaceX has begun sending email invitations to Starlink’s public beta and will charge beta users $99 per month plus a one-time fee of $499 for the user terminal, mounting tripod, and router. The emails are being sent to people who previously registered interest in the service on the Starlink website. One person in Washington state who got the email posted it on Reddit. Another person who lives in Wisconsin got the Starlink public-beta invitation and passed the details along to Ars via email.
SpaceX is calling it the “Better Than Nothing” beta, perhaps partly because the Starlink satellite service will be most useful to people who cannot get cable or fiber broadband. But the email also says, “As you can tell from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations.”
The rest of the email reads as follows:
Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.
As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our networking software, data speed, latency, and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.
The Starlink phased-array user terminal, which is more advanced than what’s in fighter jets, plus mounting tripod and Wi-Fi router, costs $499 and the monthly subscription costs $99.
The email then provides a link for ordering service. There is apparently no data cap. A Starlink mobile app to help beta users set up and manage the service also just went live on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
There’s another Reddit thread with speculation on when user terminals (i.e., satellite dishes) will arrive at people’s homes, but we haven’t seen any firm delivery dates.
Another Reddit commenter who lives in Washington State wrote that ordering the public beta came out to nearly $600 including a $50 shipping fee and tax. “Then I had to place a second order for the ridgeline mount for another $100. Worth it!” the person wrote.
While the standard startup kit comes with a tripod mount for the user terminal, two types of roof mounts are sold as optional extras. The Reddit thread includes links to PDFs of Starlink’s instructions for setting up the ridgeline mount or “volcano mount.”
Installing either mount on a roof is a lot more work than indicated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s statement that users only have to plug the terminal in and point it at the sky. But users could also try placing the terminal in a location with a clear view of the sky, without a special roof mount.
It’s not clear whether the beta pricing is the same as what SpaceX will charge during general availability. We also don’t know how many people got the sign-up emails or have a full list of states where it’s available. We contacted SpaceX with several questions this morning and will update the article if we get a response.
The public beta was preceded by a limited beta that was provided to users for free. Musk recently said that the public beta will be for the northern US and “hopefully” southern Canada. SpaceX plans to provide Starlink to a school district in Texas in early 2021, but that doesn’t mean the public beta is available to anyone in the south. The wait may not be too long, though, as SpaceX has said it will reach “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”