South Africans can now put down a deposit to order SpaceX’s Starlink high-speed, low-latency broadband service.
Starlink uses a constellation of lower-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to offer fast Internet connectivity to its users.
The service is of particular benefit to people living in rural locations who cannot get fibre or mobile broadband.
Starlink has started taking deposits from users in locations across the globe, allowing them to pay for a priority position to receive the service when it arrives in their respective regions.
The Starlink website – which is used for signing up beta customers in the US, Canada, and the UK – will now direct users with South African addresses to a payment gateway.
Previously, South Africans were presented with a message that informed them they would get updates via their provided email address on when the service will be available in their location.
The page now says that Starlink is targeting coverage in South Africa in 2022, with availability being limited. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.
After entering their email and physical address, users are required to fill out their personal details and make an online payment of $99 (R1,460) as a deposit for the service by using a debit or credit card.
Payment has to be made within 15 minutes before the user is required to resubmit their information to see if orders remain available.
Conditions of deposit
In a linked Terms and Conditions page, Starlink describes exactly what the purpose of the deposit is.
“Your deposit payment is exclusive of any VAT or other taxes and will be applied towards a future purchase of Starlink equipment offered by SpaceX as part of its two-way satellite-based internet service,” the page states.
“By placing your deposit payment, you have established priority within your region for purchasing the Starlink Kit when available.”
The Starlink Kit includes the Starlink dish antenna, Wi-Fi router, power supply, cables, and a mounting tripod.
The deposit amount will be subtracted from the monthly cost of $99 and upfront equipment cost of $499 once the kit is available for purchase by the customer.
It should be noted, however, paying the deposit does not guarantee you will receive the service. The deposit is also fully refundable, Starlink added.
MyBroadband tested orders by using various locations in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, all of which showed that the service is targeted for 2022 in that area.
The image below shows an “Order Starlink” page for one of the more remote addresses entered by MyBroadband.
Plans for expansion and improvements
According to a recent filing with the Federal Communications Commission in the US, the Starlink service currently has over 10,000 beta users served by more than 1,000 satellites in orbit.
The Starlink website now also includes additional information about the progress SpaceX has made with the service.
Starlink is now delivering initial beta service both domestically and internationally, and will continue its expansion to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.
During the beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as it enhances the Starlink system.
“There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all,” it added.
SpaceX said that as it launches more satellites, installs more ground stations, and improves its networking software, speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.