Comparing VSAT and Starlink Antenna Diameters Author

Space-X’s Starlink Starting Beta Tests: Sign Up Now!

Broadband Internet access to rural and under-developed areas has been a “Holy Grail” for decades. Today, this market is primarily served with communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), but those services are very limited and expensive. Compared to their geosynchronous satellite brethren, low earth orbit (LEO) satellite services promise

    • Near-universal access
    • Cable-like speeds and capacity (ten times what consumer Satcom provides today)
    • Lower prices
    • Smaller terminals (antennas one-third of the diameter of today’s VSATs)

Of the planned LEO services, Starlink is far along, so I’ll focus this discussion on it. An August 7, 2020 launch added 57 satellites to the constellation, bringing Starlink to nearly 600 in-orbit satellites.

But what’s in orbit is not all that is required: Each user site must have its own antenna and related components; we’ll call this system an earth terminal (ET). Space-X owner Elon Musk has FCC approval to deploy up to FIVE MILLION ET’s.  At least early on, Starlink will need to have partners to manufacture and install the ETs (Starlink says installs will primarily be DIY.) Pricing has not been released, but from numerous reports, I expect the ET to be perhaps $250 and service packages to start at around $75 per month.

So What Should You Do?

A Beta test is underway in northern USA and Canada. Sign up! (I did!)

Go to At this point, you are under no obligation (nor is Space-X). The number of first-wave Beta testers will be very limited; location and demographics will be key selection criteria. (It turns out that I am a bit too far South — North Carolina — for the first wave; otherwise, being rural, a current Satcom user, and tech-savvy, I’d make an excellent Beta tester. My hand’s way up, Mr. Musk!)

And look to the skies! Follow our blog posts in this area for future recommendations. I am convinced that LEO services will revolutionize what rural and under-served users will be able to do over the next few years. LEOs will enable an additional three billion or so participate fully in the Internet world (source: SES). There are clear consumer and enterprise opportunities with LEOs.

(Note: This is one in a series of blogposts on remote access and Satcom in particular.)


The views and opinions in this analysis are my own and do not represent positions or opinions of The Analyst Syndicate. Read more on the Disclosure Policy.