SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband might not be considered a test for much longer. Elon Musk told Twitter users that Starlink should exit beta “next month” — that is, sometime in October. You could theoretically could use the quicker-than-usual service in more countries, or at least without the stigma of beta testing involved.
The company had aimed for complete worldwide coverage by September. To date, the beta has been largely limited to North America and parts of Europe, with notable exceptions like Australia, Chile and New Zealand. Planned expansions are so far limited to Mexico and Japan, but SpaceX has registered subsidiaries in countries like the Philippines and South Africa.
The formal launch could be crucial. SpaceX said it had shipped 100,000 Starlink terminals as of late August, but that number is likely to swell as the beta label disappears and more countries get access. And while satellite service is far from new, Starlink’s high bandwidth and low latency could help close the gap for broadband in rural areas and developing countries where conventional internet access is either unavailable or too slow to be practical.
This is, of course, provided Starlink arrives as promised. Musk and his companies have a history of optimistic timetables for projects that get stalled by technical hurdles and other practical realities. An October launch certainly isn’t out of the question, but you might not want to plan your schedule around that launch just yet.
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