Future Tech

Starlink stuffs the internet into a backpack by invitation only

Tan KW
Publish date: Sat, 22 Jun 2024, 08:52 AM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

SpaceX is inviting some customers to buy a new Starlink Mini receiver for its satellite broadband service offered as a portable option, with an introductory price tag of $599 in the US.

Customer emails sent by the space company this week invited select customers to buy its latest antenna, described as a "compact, portable kit that can easily fit in a backpack, designed to provide high-speed, low-latency internet on the go."

Stream 4K movies while out camping out, anyone?

The company is offering a "limited number" of the Starlink Mini antennas for $599 in an early access release, according to the email seen by CNBC. That price is $100 more than the standard antenna sold with its residential service, although the company expects to bring that down.

In a tweet referring to the new receiver, SpaceX chief Elon Musk claimed to be using one, and said it was easy to carry and get up and running.

"I just set it up right now and am writing this post through space. Took less than 5 mins. Easily carried in a backpack. This product will change the world," he claimed.

Musk also reckons it would be "about half the price of the standard dish to buy," which currently costs $499 following a recent $100 price cut, perhaps indicating what buyers will eventually pay to get a Starlink Mini.

According to PCMag, customers will also need to pay $30 per month to receive internet over the dish, as an add-on to their existing residential service plan, which can currently cost $90 or $120 per month in the US.

Meanwhile, Starlink's website states that Starlink Mini is currently available only in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama, with the exception of a small group of customers in the US via invitation only.

"We are unable to accommodate order requests from customers who did not receive an invitation," the website says, but SpaceX plans to expand to other markets over time. No time frame is even hinted at for when this might happen.

"Our goal is to reduce the price of Starlink, especially for those around the world where connectivity has been unaffordable or completely unavailable. In regions with high usage, like the US, where Starlink Mini places additional demand on the satellite network, we are offering a limited number of the Starlink Mini Kits to start at a higher price point," SpaceX says.

Specifications for the Starlink Mini put it at 1.10 kg (2.43 lb) in weight and 289 x 259 mm (11.7 x 10.2 in), making it about the size and weight of some laptops.

It supports WiFi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac) and also has an Ethernet port "with Starlink Plug."

The antenna comes with a power supply, but the specs also suggest it can be powered via USB-C PD (Power Delivery), so long as the source can supply 20V at 5A.

Starlink's website says that the "Mini" Service, which can be used only with the Starlink Mini Kit, has no data caps and no speed caps. However, it also states that the speeds customers can expect to receive will range from 50-100 Mbps, compared with 150-250 Mbps for the Standard service plan. ®



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