SpaceX disclosed in a public filing on Thursday that its Starlink satellite internet service now has “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad.”
“Starlink’s performance is not theoretical or experimental … [and] is rapidly accelerating in real time as part of its public beta program,” SpaceX wrote in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
Elon Musk’s company began a public beta program of Starlink in October, with service priced at $99 a month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious project to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, known in the space industry as a constellation, designed to deliver high-speed internet to consumers anywhere on the planet. The FCC two years ago approved SpaceX to launch 11,943 satellites, with the company aiming to deploy 4,425 satellites in orbit by 2024.
SpaceX noted in the filing that Starlink’s service is “meeting and exceeding 100/20 megabits per second (“Mbps”) throughput to individual users,” while the vast majority of users were seeing latency “at or below 31 milliseconds.”
The update on Starlink’s customer base came in a petition to the FCC, with SpaceX asking that Starlink be designated an “Eligible Telecommunications Carrier” or ETC.
The company noted that receiving this designation is necessary for Starlink to provide service to regions in “Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.”
SpaceX was awarded access to those regions under the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund, an auction to bring broadband services to rural areas.
The FCC in December awarded SpaceX with nearly $900 million in federal subsidies in the first phase of the auction.
“Designating Starlink Services as an ETC is in the public interest because it will enable the company to receive support that will facilitate rapid deployment of broadband and voice service to the Service Areas at speeds and latency comparable to terrestrial systems in urban locations,” SpaceX wrote in the filing on Thursday.
“Starlink Services respectfully requests that the Commission grant this petition by June 7, 2021 in order for Starlink Services to meet the Commission’s deadline for ETC designation for the purposes of receiving RDOF support.”
SpaceX’s rapid Starlink user growth is notable given the service has been in a public beta for just over three months.
But customer demand was apparent before Starlink began offering early access, as SpaceX said in July that it received interest in the service from “nearly 700,000 individuals” across the United States. Those individuals’ interest came within the first two months of SpaceX allowing potential customers to sign up on the company’s website for updates on service availability.
The company has launched more than 1,000 Starlink satellites to date, including a launch of another 60 satellites early Thursday morning. SpaceX’s next Starlink launch is scheduled for Friday morning.
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