During the Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference on Tuesday, Elon Musk said SpaceX’s satellite internet network, Starlink, should have 500,000 users in 12 months. Musk said SpaceX’s goal is to beam broadband internet to most of the planet by August.
Since 2018, more than 1,700 satellites have been launched into orbit, and last month, the internet network reached a milestone of 69,420 active users, Musk told MWC. In his remarks, he said Starlink operates in 12 countries and is expanding. “I think we will have a few hundred thousand users, maybe even over 500,000 users within the next 12 months,” he said.
Musk believes that Starlink will have 500,000 users within a year
Despite the wildly ambitious goal of providing global internet access within the next two months and reaching half a million users in the next year, Starlink is on track to achieve its objective.
Consumers living in rural areas and government agencies (among others) have a direct interest in the internet service.
Under the beta, many individuals pay $99 per month for internet, using a $499 bundle that includes a self-aligning Starlink dish and Wi-Fi router. The company promises a download speed of 100Mbps and an upload speed of 20Mbps. Overall, there have been mixed reviews.
There are many challenges on the path to opening up a commercial service and providing universal internet access. Musk admitted during the conference that each Starlink terminal costs SpaceX over $1,000 instead of $499, the cost to consumers.
President Gwynne Shotwell said in April that SpaceX had already halved the terminal cost from $3,000 to “few hundred dollars” within the next couple of years.
Musk emphasized that SpaceX‘s main goal is avoiding bankruptcy as it passes through a time of negative cash flow. Last year, OneWeb, Starlink’s main competitor, declared bankruptcy and has since emerged from that situation.
The Starlink team has signed agreements with two large telecom companies, but Musk did not mention which ones. Rather than competing directly with existing 5G providers, Starlink can be viewed as a “complementary” service. By bridging the gap between 5G and fiber, Starlink gets to the heart of the matter in parts of the world that are hard to get to.
We will need at least $5 billion, and maybe up to $10 billion before we can reach positive cash flow. The investment is quite large, he said, adding, “Without continuing to invest heavily, we won’t remain competitive.”
He said the total investment in Starlink will be between $20 and $30 billion. The space company hopes to generate $30 billion in revenue with Starlink once it’s up and running, and perhaps even separate it from SpaceX to take it public.
Musk plans to use the revenue primarily for SpaceX’s Starship project, which will ferry humans to the moon and Mars. Musk, who is known for tossing around wildly ambitious development timelines, said that Starship could launch into orbit sometime by “the next few months” – a slightly different timetable than Shotwell’s statement a few days earlier.
Musk clarified on Twitter that there is an internal goal if things go right, and that goal needs to be aggressive. Naturally, there will be some internal problems and external problems as well.”