SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell wants what SpaceX is doing to “revitalize the industry” while making “little kids think about getting back into the space industry.”
Kimberly White | Vanity Fair | fake images
SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell does not believe the company will add “tiered pricing” for its direct-to-consumer Starlink satellite Internet service, which is currently offered at $ 99 a month with limited early access.
“I don’t think we are going to set tiered pricing for consumers. We will try to keep it as simple and transparent as possible, so there are no plans at this time to set tiers for consumers,” Shotwell said. , speaking at the Satellite 2021 “LEO Digital Forum” in a virtual panel on Tuesday.
In a tiered pricing system, what the customer pays is based on the level of service they choose.
Starlink is the company’s capital intensive project to build an interconnected Internet network with thousands of satellites, known in the space industry as a constellation, designed to deliver high-speed Internet to consumers anywhere on the planet.
A Starlink user terminal installed on the roof of a building in Canada.
The company has launched more than 1,200 satellites into orbit so far.
In October, SpaceX began rolling out the Starlink service early in a public beta that now extends to customers in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, with a service priced at $ 99 per month. month in the US, plus an upfront cost. for the equipment needed to connect to satellites.
Elon Musk’s company has continued to expand the Starlink service, and the public beta garnered over 10,000 users in its first three months. Shotwell noted that SpaceX does not “have a deadline to get out of beta” and said the company still has “a lot of work to do to make the network reliable.”
Musk’s company plans to expand Starlink beyond homes, asking the FCC to expand its connectivity authorization to “moving vehicles,” so the service can be used with everything from planes to ships to large trucks.
For now, SpaceX is focused on serving customers in rural and hard-to-reach areas, and Shotwell says Starlink “will be able to serve every rural household in the United States,” or “roughly 60 million people.” While SpaceX is adding service to other countries, Shotwell said SpaceX initially focuses on the US “Because they speak English and are close and if they have a problem with their plate, we can ship one quickly.”
“But we definitely want to expand this capacity beyond the US and Canada,” Shotwell added.
SpaceX absorbs most of the cost of Starlink equipment
Boxes containing Starlink kits, with user terminals and Wi-Fi routers.
A major hurdle for Starlink, as for any satellite broadband service, is the cost of user terminals – the ground equipment that connects customers to the network.
Shotwell said SpaceX has “made great progress in reducing the cost” of the Starlink user terminal, which originally cost about $ 3,000 each. He said the terminals now cost less than $ 1,500 and SpaceX “just released a new version that saved about $ 200 off.”
That means SpaceX is absorbing about two-thirds of the cost of the terminals, as the company is charging beta customers $ 499 upfront for a user terminal. Musk said earlier this year that Starlink “needs to cross a deep gulf of negative cash flow,” a significant part of which is expected to be due to the cost of user terminals.
While SpaceX isn’t charging customers the full cost of the terminals so far, Shotwell said the company expects its cost to drop to “the range of a few hundred dollars within the next two years.”
Starlink ‘complementary’ to existing broadband service
60 Starlink satellites deploy into orbit after the company’s 17th mission.
Shotwell re-emphasized earlier comments from SpaceX leadership that Starlink is not seeking to replace the service of “giant providers AT&T, Comcast, etc.” as it noted that their satellite Internet is “very complementary to the services they provide.”
“The Starlink system is best suited to highly distributed rural or semi-rural populations,” Shotwell said.
Meanwhile, Shotwell said SpaceX’s challenge is learning how to scale for consumer customers while “making sure we can build a reliable network.” But, he added, none of these are challenges “that we cannot solve.”