SpaceX’s The Starlink service appears to be getting very close as the company has sent requests for specific address information to anyone who has expressed interest in its beta program this week. A leak originally discovered via the Starlink subreddit (through Business Insider) gave early insight into how the beta program works and what SpaceX expected of all participants.
The Starlink service requires the use of special hardware to receive and transmit data to and from the Starlink constellation, as well as a “clear view of the northern sky” in order to function. The hardware shown above is a small spaceX satellite dish CEO and founder Elon Musk has previously described as “UFO on a stick”
Starlink will provide these hardware beta testers for free and you are responsible for installing them yourself. The kits include a bowl power supply and mounting parts that are tailored to a person’s specific needs based on their home. The website explicitly instructs beta testers not to use outside help when assembling their kits. Without a clear view of the sky, the FAQ states, users cannot connect well.
Many existing providers of satellite Internet services use on-site dishes to enable the connection. However, they usually work with installers to set them up for users. SpaceX could also follow this path after the beta phase, but would like to clearly restrict access during this test phase before the start.
The Starlink service quality should be “high” when properly connected, but according to the company, it is also “inconsistent” in the frequently asked questions. This is because SpaceX is performing remote software updates and other network optimizations throughout the test program, which means that, according to the site text, it is not a suitable solution for “gaming or work purposes”.
Starlink also notes that it monitors all activity on the network during the trial period and specifically prohibits “illegal activity” such as downloading or saving pirated copies, and reserves the right to suspend or end participation in beta testers due to testing.
Users can cancel their participation at any time and are only asked to install the hardware if they can safely access a suitable area (so if you are in a shared flat such as an apartment, this may limit your eligibility).
Responsibilities of the beta tester
According to Starlink, beta testers must keep the details of their participation confidential, including the speed and quality of the network. They are also expected to spend between 30 minutes and an hour a day “testing Starlink services and providing feedback on a regular basis”. Feedback is provided through “surveys, phone calls, emails and other means”.
Starlink also states that participants are ready to return their Starlink kits at the end of the beta phase (at Starlink’s shipping costs) or at any time. The company also states that it requires credit card or debit information and charges a “nominal fee” (which may not be final, but would range from $ 1 to $ 3 when set up and then repeated monthly) to “SpaceXs.” to test “order and billing systems”, however, expressly states that the actual Starlink service and the rental hardware will be provided free of charge for the duration of the test.
Starlink has emailed potential beta testers that the private beta should start this summer. It is therefore not surprising that they already have the resources and content to get them up and running for those invited to participate. If all goes well, the company hopes to expand this to an open beta with initial coverage in the northern United States and Canada and to expand to more regions after further satellite launches next year.