Musk expects users eventually will be able to maintain connections to satellite network no matter where they are
SpaceX’s Starlink program aims to cover the sky in a constellation of satellites and provide high speed Internet to people all across the globe. The project, which has already run successful private beta tests in rural Washington, and other areas, is just a few dozen satellites away from going public.
When it does, it will hopefully bridge the digital divide in America by bringing online information and communication to even the country’s most remote regions.
However, Starlink’s utility does not end with people living on distant pastures or isolated mountaintops. The satellites also have potential to help people who are living mobile lives.
On Tuesday, November 3rd, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Tweeted that boats will have a “relatively easy” time connecting to Starlink, especially with so few people on open water. This means crews that spend weeks at a time at sea will be able to stay connected with their families and the world throughout.
The same logic applies to people who live in RVs or spend lots of time on the road. Whether they are near their home base or at temporary locations, they will likely be able to access the internet from multiple locations, sequentially.
Of course, these seemingly-straightforward answers require a bit of explanation. After all, even if Starlink operates primarily via satellites in space, an Internet connection still requires a return to some grounded station. Luckily, the constellation is set up for the satellites to bounce signals off of each other. Therefore, a ship in the Pacific can connect with one satellite above, which can then link up with another and another until it connects back with the ground. It may sound longwinded, but this hop-scotch-like maneuver should not jeopardize Starlink’s expected speed— 100 megabits+ per second downloads and 40 megabits per second uploads.
Starlink striving for full service to northern US and Canada by end of 2020 and near global coverage by 2021
Likewise, there are questions regarding locations and fees. Right now, Starlink’s beta price is set at $99 per month and the full price remains unknown. However, it would make most sense for SpaceX to charge differently based on location. To serve mobile users, there will likely be a roaming plan that allows them to access the satellites wherever they are.
These advancements only broaden the wide utility of Starlink. Not only will it help average people stay connected, but it will also be available to assist first-responders who might have to rescue people at sea or elsewhere off the beaten path.
Starlink is still being built, but SpaceX hopes to have the infrastructure for global coverage sometime next year. And as more and more satellites are launched (up to 12,000 ultimately) the cost could go down while the quality rises.
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