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Elon Musk sends tweet via SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband

  Starlink logo is introduced on stylized image of the earth.
Enlarge / Starlink logo applied to stylized image of the earth.

SpaceX's Starlink division is about to offer satellite broadband service in the United States by mid-2020, a company official said today. At the same time, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk published two tweets showing that he is testing the broadband service.

"Sends this tweet through space via the Starlink satellite," wrote Musk . Two minutes later, Musk sent a follow-up tweet that said: " Whoa, it worked !! "

Musk "has a Starlink terminal in his house," SpaceNews wrote today in an article that has an update update from SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.

SpaceNews reported:

SpaceX is confident it can begin offering broadband services in the United States through its Starlink constellation in mid-2020, company president and chief executive Gwynne Shotwell said on October 22.

Getting there will require the company to launch six to eight batches of satellites, Shotwell told reporters during a media roundtable. SpaceX must also complete the design and construction of the user terminals, which is not a minor challenge, Shotwell acknowledged.

"Mid-2020" is slightly more specific than the time stated in previous SpaceX statements, but we already knew the Starlink service was expected to come sometime in 2020. SpaceX previously said it plans to distribute satellite broadband in the northern United States and Canada as soon as next year.

SpaceX launched 60 satellites in May this year to test the system before preparing for a wider distribution. The company has FCC license to distribute up to 11,943 satellites and is seeking permission to launch as many as 30,000 more.

But SpaceX can start offering services long before all satellites are launched. While the northern United States and Canada appear to be the first in line to receive service, SpaceX recently asked the FCC to approve a change in circulation distance that would allow the company to also cover the southern United States by the end of next year.

Today, "Shotwell said that SpaceX will need to complete six to eight Starlink launches – including the one that already took place in May – to ensure continuous upper and lower broadband service," SpaceNews reported.

"We need 24 launches to get global coverage," Shotwell said. "Each launch after that gives you more capacity." SpaceX previously said it could make 24 Starlink launches in 2020.

The price is still to be determined

While SpaceX has stated that it intends to provide gigabit speeds and latencies as low as 25ms, a big unanswered question is how much it will cost. SpaceX is obviously still trying to figure it out.

"Shotwell said that millions of people in the United States pays $ 80 a month to get "crap service," SpaceNews reported. "She did not say whether Starlink will cost more or less than $ 80 a month but suggested that it would be a segment of the public that the company would target both rural and currently have no connection."

There are some other interesting kids in the article SpaceNews. SpaceX wants to offer Starlink both to Internet users at home and to the US government, and the company is already testing with the US Air Force Research Laboratory. "So far, SpaceX has shown data at a whopping 610 Mbps per flight to the cockpit of a US military C-12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft," the SpaceNews article said.

Selling directly to ordinary consumers will be a new challenge for the company, requiring new sales, technical support and product engineering staff. Shotwell acknowledged that "this is a very different company for SpaceX."

SpaceX still extends the technology for user terminals, which will be installed in homes that connect to Starlink. "Knowing Elon, he wants everything to be beautiful. So the user terminal is beautiful," Shotwell said.

SpaceX's satellites use low earth orbits which should enable them to provide much better service than traditional satellite broadband systems. But SpaceX is not the only company planning to use the technology; the company faces competition from OneWeb, Space Norway, Telesat and Amazon.

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