SpaceX has launched more than 1,000 of its Starlink high-speed internet satellites to date and, as it seeks regulatory approval in other countries, Elon Musk’s company is now offering early public access to the service in Canada and the U.K.
“Earlier this month we expanded our ‘Better than Nothing Beta’ program to include customers across the pond in the United Kingdom,” SpaceX lead manufacturing engineer Jessie Anderson said during the company’s launch webcast on Wednesday.
“Within the northern U.S. and Canada, and now the U.K., we are focused on rural and remote areas where there is no easy access to fiber or cable,” Anderson added.
SpaceX began the public beta program in October, with service priced at $99 a month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit that includes as user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites.
Starlink is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet.
The network is an ambitious endeavor, which SpaceX has said will cost about $10 billion or more to build. But the company’s leadership estimates that Starlink could bring in as much as $30 billion a year, or more than 10 times the annual revenue of its rocket business.
SpaceX launched its 17th Starlink mission from Florida on Wednesday morning, with a Falcon 9 rocket carrying another batch of 60 satellites to orbit.
The launch also marked a milestone for SpaceX’s reuse of its rockets, with the Falcon 9 booster launching and landing for a record eighth time. Musk has previously said that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to launch and land up to 10 times without major repairs or refurbishment.
Anderson noted that, in addition to individuals in rural areas of the northern U.S., SpaceX has signed up the town of Marysville in Ohio and Virginia’s Wise County Public School District for Starlink service.
In the Ontario province of Canada, the rural indigenous community of Pikangikum First Nation became the first in the country to receive Starlink service.
Pikangikum is about 300 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg and has a population of less than 3,000 people, with about 400 to 500 households. SpaceX partnered with Canadian information and technology services company FSET to bring Starlink user terminals to the Pikangikum community.
“I hope that this gives them, the younger generations, a little bit of hope,” Pikangikum Health Authority victim services leader Vernon Kejick said in a video on SpaceX’s launch webcast. “We’re creating a pathway for the younger people.”
The Starlink kits were delivered via airplane, which is the main way the community connects with more populated areas of Canada.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but at least we have access to technology and information, and hopefully that playing field is at least a little closer to being level,” FSET CEO Dave Brown said on the launch webcast on Wednesday.
Starlink recently received approval to begin operating in the U.K., where it is priced at £89 per month plus the £439 cost of the kit. It’s unclear how many homes and offices are currently using Starlink’s service.
SpaceX continues to look to expand Starlink internationally, with public records showing the company registered in Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.
The company also requested market access in Japan, and Musk has talked about Starlink coming to India and the Caribbean as well.
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