Privately held SpaceX is ready to open up the beta testing of its Starlink satellite internet service, and has sent emails offering consumers who have expressed interest a chance to sign up for service.
The email, which was posted on Reddit Monday, said the service requires $499 in up-front costs to cover a user terminal, mounting tripod, and router, as well as $99 per month in user fees. There appear to be no data caps, though Starlink admits the initial product might not be of the quality SpaceX hopes to eventually roll out to the masses.
Starlink is calling the offer its "better than nothing" beta test, and admitted in the email "we are trying to lower your initial expectations."
"Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system," the email said. "There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all."
At those speeds and latency, the service would be most useful to those who are unable to get broadband service from terrestrial providers.
Starlink is an ambitious plan by Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch a fleet of more than 12,000 satellites to blanket the globe with internet service. The project is expected to cost more than $10 billion to build out, but SpaceX has said it believes the business could generate upward of $30 billion per year once it is fully established.
SpaceX so far has launched only about 900 satellites, and the beta trial according to reports will be limited primarily to locations near the northern U.S. border.
The service is aimed primarily at rural households in the U.S., where terrestrial options are limited. It's possible the overall cost of the service will come down post-beta as terminal manufacturing increases, but given the high costs, the service for now will likely struggle to compete against other high-speed options.
SpaceX officials have discussed the idea of eventually spinning Starlink out as a separate, publicly traded company, potentially creating a new tech stock focused on internet delivery.