When you think of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, chances are high that you think of his electric car company Tesla, his space exploration venture SpaceX, or his bid to take control of Twitter. Perhaps it’s his history of stirring up controversy on social media or smoking weed with Joe Rogan that comes to mind. Maybe you just know him as one of the richest people on Earth.

Something you might be less familiar with is Starlink, a venture from Musk that aims to sell internet connections to almost anyone on the planet by way of a growing network of private satellites orbiting overhead.


After years of development within SpaceX — and after securing nearly $885.5 million in grant funds from the Federal Communications Commission at the end of 2020 — Starlink picked up the pace in 2021. In January, after three years’ worth of successful launches, the project had surpassed 1,000 satellites delivered into orbit. One year and dozens of successful launches later, Starlink boasts more than 2,000 functional satellites orbiting overhead, and says that it now offers service in 32 countries around the world, though the budding broadband provider still faces a backlog of prospective customers waiting to receive equipment and start service. That list of countries includes Ukraine, where Musk said in February additional satellite internet terminals were en route amid the Russian invasion (and amid Russian attempts to jam the signal), a move that cost US taxpayers $3 million, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Starlink isn’t without its controversies. Members of the scientific community have raised concerns about the impact of Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellites on night sky visibility. Meanwhile, satellite internet competitors including Viasat, HughesNet and Amazon’s Project Kuiper have taken notice of Starlink’s momentum, too, prompting regulatory jousting and attempts to slow Musk down.

We’ll continue to monitor Starlink’s progress in 2022. For now, here’s everything you should know about it.


What is starlink exactly.

Technically a division within SpaceX, Starlink is also the name of the spaceflight company’s growing network — or “constellation” — of orbital satellites. The development of that network began in 2015, with the first prototype satellites launched into orbit in 2018.

In the years since, SpaceX has deployed thousands of Starlink satellites into the constellation across dozens of successful launches, the most recent of which took place on April 21 and delivered another 53 satellites into low-earth orbit. That brings the total number of satellites launched to 2,388, more than 2,000 of which appear to be operational parts of the constellation.

And those satellites can connect my home to the internet?

That’s the idea, yes.

Just like existing providers of satellite internet like HughesNet or Viasat, Starlink wants to sell internet access — particularly to people in rural areas and other parts of the world who don’t already have access to high-speed broadband.

“Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge,” the Starlink website reads. “Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable.”

All you need to do to make the connection is set up a small satellite dish at your home to receive the signal and pass the bandwidth on to your router. The company offers a number of mounting options for rooftops, yards and the exterior of your home. There’s even a Starlink app for Android and iOS that uses augmented reality to help customers pick the best location and position for their receivers.

Starlink’s service is only available in select regions in the US, Canada and abroad at this point, but the service now boasts more than 100,000 satellite terminals shipped to customers, and the coverage map will continue to grow as more satellites make their way into the constellation. Eventually, Starlink hopes to blanket the entire planet in a usable, high-speed Wi-Fi signal.


How fast is Starlink’s internet service?

According to the internet speed-tracking site Ookla, which analyzed satellite internet performance during the fourth quarter of 2021, Starlink offered download speeds exceeding 100Mbps in 15 different countries last year, with average speeds in Q4 that were higher than Q3. In the US, Starlink offered average download speeds of about 105Mbps and average upload speeds of about 12Mbps, which is about five or six times better than the averages for satellite rivals Viasat and HughesNet, and just shy of the overall average for the entire fixed wireless internet category, which includes satellite and other forms of delivering connectivity to peoples’ homes without ground-laid infrastructure.

“Users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50 to 150 megabits per second and latency from 20 to 40 milliseconds in most locations over the next several months,” Starlink’s website says, while also warning of 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.”

To that end, Musk tweeted in February of last year that he expected the service to double its top speeds to 300Mbps by the end of 2021. Now, in 2022, claims like those are difficult to evaluate, as speeds will vary depending on time and location.

Last year, CNET’s John Kim signed up for the service at his home in California and recently began testing it out at a variety of locations. At home, he averaged download speeds around 78Mbps, and latency around 36ms. You can see more of his first impressions in the video embedded above, or by clicking here.

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How much does Starlink cost?

Starlink is now accepting orders on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll need to request service, put down a $99 deposit, and then wait your way through the backlog. During its beta in 2021, Starlink said that some preorders could take as long as six months to fulfill — in some regions, Starlink now says that new orders may not be fulfilled until 2023 or later.

The cost of the service was initially billed at $99 per month, plus taxes and fees, plus an initial payment of $499 for the mountable satellite dish and router that you’ll need to install at home. In March, and in spite of earlier predictions from SpaceX executives that the hardware costs would come down over time, SpaceX raised those prices to $110 per month and $599 upfront for the hardware.

$110 per month is a lot for an internet connection, especially one that isn’t nearly as fast as a fiber connection, but Musk is betting that the cost will be worth it for people who have thus far lived without access to a reliably fast connection at all.

In April of last year, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink wanted to keep pricing as simple and transparent as possible, and had no plans to introduce service tiers into the mix. However, that approach seems to be changing in 2022 with the introduction of a new premium tier with a scan array that’s twice as big as the standard plan and with download speeds ranging from 150-500Mbps. That tier costs $500 per month, plus an initial payment of $2,500 for the equipment. Starlink is taking orders for that tier now, and plans to launch the service later in 2022.



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