SpaceX is a space transportation services company best known for its partially-reusable Falcon 9 rocket and ambitions to settle Mars. SpaceX has recently undertaken a project to construct a satellite constellation called Starlink that is intended to provide satellite Internet. In contrast to currently operating satellite Internet constellations, the Starlink constellation is intended to comprise tens of thousands of inexpensive satellites orbiting at a low altitude. The hope is that this will allow relatively inexpensive, low-latency consumer Internet for everyday use.
At the current time, SpaceX is advertising beta signups for prospective customers, and Internet sleuths have purportedly uncovered speed tests from beta testers (although it is possible that the tests are fraudulent). However, the beta test is currently quite limited (only in Washington state or possibly Canada), and the users are only using the service in a testing capacity (and being charged placeholder amounts, such as $1).
When will SpaceX Starlink internet be generally available?
In order to be considered generally available, Starlink internet must meet several criteria:
- There must be a "coverage area" (either explicit or implicit) within which any consumer may, in principle, request to install Starlink internet. Said consumer might not qualify for normal reasons that might occur with other ISPs. For example, their property may not have a good view of the sky, there are legal or technical barriers to installation, or there is a limited capacity and a waitlist within a region. However, there should be no special restrictions such as having a prior relationship with SpaceX/Tesla or signing a non-disclosure agreement.
- Due to how orbits work, coverage will initially begin in the higher latitudes (hence the beta test in Washington state). To be considered generally available, the coverage area should extend to at least one location that has a latitude between 35 degrees north and 35 degrees south (e.g. SpaceX's headquarters in Los Angeles). For example, if SpaceX provides a coverage map, it should include such a location; or there should be reports of regular customers from such a location. A boat would qualify if it is using Starlink service within the 35N/35S band.
- Customers who are unaffiliated with SpaceX (employees, etc.) must be paying for Starlink service. The payment should be understood to be the actual price of the service, as opposed to a placeholder to test the billing system.
- It should be understood (either explicitly or implicitly) that service is available continuously. That is, there should be, in principle, no periodic outages due to a lack of satellites overhead, although there may be outages for maintenance or if a satellite is destroyed, etc. If SpaceX does not specifically mention such periodic outages, it would most likely be implied that service is available continuously.
Note that this question could resolve even if the following occur: the coverage area is very small, the price is prohibitively expensive, the service is extremely poor or unreliable, or there are very few customers.