SpaceX is expanding a test of its Starlink satellite internet and could bring the service to other countries next year, CEO Elon Musk says.
The space-exploration firm will send out “several thousand more” invitations to customers this week for the so-called beta test of Starlink, which connects users to the internet through a network of hundreds of satellites orbiting the Earth, Musk tweeted Monday.
In subsequent Twitter posts, Musk said SpaceX will aim to bring the service to Europe and India next year following its initial launch in the US and Canada. The company will “probably” start receiving final approvals to connect users in European countries in February or March, and India will “hopefully” follow around mid-2021, according to his posts.
The billionaire tech titan didn’t say exactly how many people were already participating in Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, which reportedly launched last week. SpaceX said in August that “nearly 700,000 individuals” expressed interest in the service aiming to provide high-speed connections to people in rural areas who have limited options for internet access.
SpaceX has promised data speeds ranging from 50 to 150 megabits per second, which are significantly slower than some traditional internet connections. But some early users in Montana and Washington state have reported downloads as fast as 177 megabits per second, according to a Starlink forum on Reddit.
The initial Starlink service costs $99 a month, plus $499 for the equipment needed to set up the connection, according to reports. Musk tweeted that lowering the cost of the so-called Starlink terminal, “which may sound rather pedestrian, is actually our most difficult technical challenge.”
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