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Elon Musk reveals when Starlink internet service will go live

Published Apr 23rd, 2020 3:30PM EDT
starlink internet
Image: SpaceX

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  • SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service will begin private beta testing in around 3 months, with a public beta opening in around 6 months.
  • Elon Musk revealed this tentative timeline in a tweet after the Wednesday launch of 60 new Starlink satellites.
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On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX sent one of its Falcon 9 rockets into space. It was carrying 60 shiny new satellites that will eventually become part of the company’s Starlink communications network. SpaceX has been launching the pint-sized satellites into space for months already, with over 400 of them now in orbit around Earth.

The long-term plan is for Starlink to serve high-speed data to just about every corner of the globe, but with an estimated 40,000 satellites needed to fulfill the company’s most grand ambitions, it was unclear exactly how long it would take before the system was up and running in any capacity. Thanks to some tweets by SpaceX boss Elon Musk, now we know.

On launch day, Musk fielded a question on Twitter regarding how long he expects it to be before Starlink is serving customers. These types of questions typically go unanswered, especially on Twitter, but Musk was happy to reveal the short-term roadmap.

“Private beta begins in ~3 months, public beta in ~6 months, starting with high latitudes,” Musk replied. SpaceX has been on a steady schedule of Starlink satellite deployments, so we can expect at least a few additional batches of satellites to be deployed by that point, but some serious questions still remain.

In a tweet from the official SpaceX account, Starlink is described as being capable of delivering “high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.” It’s an ambitious project, to say the least, but what the status of the network will be in just three short months is anyone’s guess.

In private beta — which we’d have to assume means invite-only, rather than a lottery system — users will have to expect choppy, intermittent service as the company works out any kinks. When you consider that SpaceX wants Starlink to eventually be 40,000 satellites strong, the fact that testing will begin with fewer than 1,000 satellites in orbit might suggest that we’re closer to the commercial launch of the Starlink service than we think.

In 6 months, when the public beta begins, the service will likely be pushed to its limits. There’s already a lot of excitement about the project and depending on how many beta customers the company thinks the system will be able to handle at that point, we could see the very beginnings of a broadband revolution.