The global chip shortage has delayed SpaceX’s satellite-based Internet service Starlink, the company has told customers with pre-orders.
In an email sent to these customers on Wednesday, Starlink explained why the estimated availability date on its pre-order page had been pushed forward in certain areas.
The notification comes after many awaiting their Starlink orders complained of a lack of communication from the company over when they should expect their kits to arrive.
Some who were previously interested in the service observed that the estimated availability date for their address had changed in the first week of November.
Before the change, placing a pre-order for Starlink in South Africa showed expected availability in 2022. That date has now changed to 2023 for customers who had not confirmed their pre-order.
Starlink said that silicon shortages over the last six months had slowed its expected production rate and impacted its ability to fulfil many Starlink orders this year.
“We apologise for the delay and are working hard across our engineering, supply chain, and production teams to improve and streamline our product and factory to increase our production rate,” Starlink said.
However, the arrival of its more compact, rectangular Starlink dish and smaller router brings some good news.
The company said the kit, which became available around the second week of November, has been designed for high-volume manufacturing.
“The latest version of Starlink has comparable performance to the previous version and will begin to ship globally next year,” Starlink said.
Starlink advised customers to check estimated delivery times by logging into their account pages on Starlink.com.
“You will still receive an email from the Starlink team when your order is ready to ship, and you may cancel your order at any time for a full refund of your deposit.”
The company claimed more than 14 million people had inquired about the service so far. As of August 2021, its active users were near 100,000.
It is currently available in specific locations in over 20 countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and several European counties.
Pending regulatory approval, Starlink will launch in an additional 45+ new countries by the end of 2022.
The company did not specify whether South Africa was included in this list. However, several South Africans who had previously secured pre-orders reported their accounts still showed availability for 2022.
Starlink said that it would accommodate more users per area as it increased the number of satellites in orbit.
“The Starlink team has been working hard to expand service and increase capacity while continuously improving quality of service,” Starlink said.
SpaceX recently completed its 31st Starlink launch, deploying the latest generation of satellites equipped with inter-satellite laser links.
These will enable our satellites to transfer data between each other.
“Once fully deployed, inter-satellite laser links will make Starlink one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world,” the company stated.
Because data transmissions between satellites would take place in a vacuum, Starlink should theoretically beat fibre in terms of inter-continental communication speeds.
That is assuming a sufficient number of satellites are available to allow for optimal routing.