The Starlink satellite Internet service developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX has racked up more than 10,000 users.
This is according to an application the company recently filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US.
The service entered its public beta late in 2020, when it was opened to users in the US as well as Canada and the UK.
Starlink employs a constellation of lower-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to beam fast, uncapped, low-latency Internet connectivity to its users on earth.
This is particularly beneficial to people living in rural locations which are far away from fibre and mobile telecommunications infrastructure.
SpaceX is now seeking designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier from the FCC, which will allow it to get access to $886 million in funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
According to SpaceX’s application, it currently has more than 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit.
With this constellation, the service is supposedly achieving download speeds in excess of 100Mbps and uploads of 20Mbps, in addition to less than 31ms latency for 95% of round-trip measurements.
This performance may improve as SpaceX launches over 3,000 more satellites by 2024, while the FCC has approved a total of 11,943.
How Starlink works
Those interested in becoming Starlink users can provide their email address and location details on the Starlink website to receive updates on when it will be available in their area.
Invitees to the Starlink beta currently pay a monthly fee of $99 (R1,472) and a once-off upfront amount of $499 (R7,420) for the required equipment.
The package includes a motorised Starlink dish antenna which adjusts its angle for best signal to the satellite constellation.
Users also get a small wireless router for placing in the house and a 50-foot power-over-Ethernet cable to connect it to the antenna.
While SpaceX has registered as a company in South Africa, it is yet to get approval from ICASA for the required Electronic Communications Service (ECS) or Electronic Communications Network Service (ECS/ECNS) licence.
It would also have to be allocated frequency spectrum to use for its network communications before it can operate legally in South Africa.