Image credit: Starlink website
Rural Canadians are eagerly awaiting to try out Starlink satellite internet, a service from Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Earlier his week, Starlink emailed Canadians to update their accounts with an address, ahead of private and public beta testing.
But yesterday, code sleuths on Reddit discovered new details about Starlink internet by looking at website code on the latter’s support website. Reddit user ‘Bubby4j’, a software developer, found numerous details about Starlink’s beta FAQ and more. His findings were later consolidated by another user and we’ve summarized some of the key points below.
What is Starlink Internet?
SpaceX says Starlink Beta “is an opportunity to be an early user of the SpaceX’s satellite internet system. The purpose of Starlink Beta is to gather feedback that will help us make decisions on how best to implement the system for Starlink’s official launch. By design, the beta experience will be imperfect. Our goal is to incorporate feedback from a variety of users to ensure we build the best satellite broadband internet system possible.”
Starlink says “Satellite internet works by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels nearly 50% faster than in fiber-optic cable.”
What makes Starlink internet different from traditional satellite internet services, which orbit at 35,000 km above a fixed region of the Earth? “Starlink, on the other hand, is a constellation of multiple satellites that orbit the planet much lower at about 550km, and cover the entire globe.”
The lower orbit means lower latency, or round-trip data time between you and the satellite, resulting in faster connections and enabling online gaming, explains Starlink, which other broadband satellites cannot handle.
Starlink Internet Coverage
As for participation in the Starlink Beta, access will “begin in the Northern United States and lower Canada, with those living in rural and/or remote communities in the Washington state area.”
The Starlink system consists of close to 600 low earth orbit satellites, “that can provide internet service in a very specific range-between 44 and 52 degrees north latitude”. Beta testers “will need a clear view of the northern sky from wherever you plan to install your Starlink dish (roof or ground).”
As for a specific latitude range, the Starlink website mentioned “44.9-51.8. (about Minneapolis to Saskatoon in latitude)”, explains ‘Bubby4j’.
Starlink Beta Tester Duties
As a Starlink internet beta tester, you are not allowed to detail or share your experience publicly. “Beta testers will be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement as a condition of their participation,” explains the FAQ.
The initial Starlink beta launch will see intermittent service as teams optimize the network. “When connected, your service quality will be high, but your connection will not be consistent. This means it may support streaming video with some buffering, but likely is not suitable for gaming or work purposes.”
Beta users also are required to use 30 minutes to 1 hour daily of testing Starlink. SpaceX may contact beta testers by phone, emails, surveys and “other means.”
As a beta tester of Starlink, you’ll need to provide feedback in short surveys over the course of an 8 week period. Beta testers can cancel at any time.
Starlink Beta Pricing
What is the cost of being a Starlink internet beta tester? Nothing, according to the FAQ. “There is no cost to be a beta tester, aside from a $1 charge to help test the billing system.”
Starlink will ask for your credit card or debit card info and you’ll be charged a small amount to test ordering and billing systems.
“For example, at the initial sign-up you will be charged approximately $3.00 total and thereafter, a reoccurring charge of approximately $2.00 per month during the duration of the Beta Program.”
Starlink kits will be delivered with a pre-assembled dish, router, power supply and mount, delivered via FedEx.
You can see images of the Starlink Internet beta website unearthed below:
Starlink Kit Installation
SpaceX says users are required to install Starlink hardware themselves on their own property. There are four mounting options:
- Ridgeline Mount – “The Ridgeline mount should take between 20-40 minutes to install, and it will require the ability to carry approximately 50 lbs of ballast to the mount location.”
- Lawn Mount – “The Lawn mount should take between 5-10 minutes to install, and it will require the ability to carry approximately 50 lbs of ballast to the mount location.”
- Volcano Mount – “The Volcano mount should take between 90-180 minutes to install, and will require the knowledge and ability to secure directly to the edge of your roof.”
- No Mount – “No mount is necessary for your location.”
Elon Musk clarified on Twitter yesterday, “Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle. No expert installer required. Just plug in & give it a clear view of the sky. Can be in garden, on roof, table, pretty much anywhere, so long as it has a wide view of the sky.”
Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle. No expert installer required. Just plug in & give it a clear view of the sky. Can be in garden, on roof, table, pretty much anywhere, so long as it has a wide view of the sky.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 14, 2020
Starlink Hardware Images
Elon Musk chimed in on Twitter to confirm they were indeed real. He added, “Small note: latch on post near base is gone & powered Ethernet wire is less obtrusive in production version.”
Small note: latch on post near base is gone & powered Ethernet wire is less obtrusive in production version
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2020
Musk previously said Canada is a “major priority” for Starlink, noting coverage would also include Toronto, Ontario. SpaceX applied for a telecom license with the CRTC back in May.
For rural Canadians paying for expensive internet with low speeds and bandwidth caps, it sounds like Starlink Internet is going to be just what they’ve been waiting for. Expect more details to come as the Starlink public beta launches in Canada sometime later this year.
If you’re in an area with poor high speed internet options—will you be waiting for Starlink internet to arrive?