After shooting over 800 broadband satellites into orbit, SpaceX is ready to begin its Starlink satellite internet program. Fans of SpaceX who signed up for Starlink email updates may receive an invitation to the Starlink “Better Than Nothing” public beta, which costs $499 to join and $99 a month to maintain.
The “Better Than Nothing” name is meant to lower customers’ expectations, according to the Starlink invitation email sent out to potential testers. SpaceX expects service to be spotty at first, with estimated speeds of 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency of 20ms to 40ms. The company also warns that Starlink testers will experience “brief periods of no connectivity at all.”
But for people in rural areas without access to high-speed broadband, the Starlink satellite service is quite literally “better than nothing.” SpaceX believes that Starlink will provide satellite internet to the farthest reaches of Earth, and hopes to improve speed and latency before the summer of 2021.
If you want a hands-on experience with Starlink for free, try downloading the Starlink app for Android or iOS. It actually walks you through the installation process for your Starlink hardware and can detect obstructions in front of your satellite dish. Of course, you can’t go very deep into the process without a Starlink user terminal, which costs $499 and is less reliable than your cable internet.
Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing” beta program is only available in the US and Canada at this time. SpaceX should expand the project to other countries next year.