Starlink was first announced in January 2015. And today, a mere 8 years later, it is already one of the world’s most popular satellite internet services.
Some of the milestones that Starlink has managed to reach are quite mindboggling, even for an Elon Musk-led firm.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ll cover:
- The number of Starlink customers
- Its incredible subscriber growth
- How much customers are using Roam
- The number of US-based customers
- How many are subscribed in Australia
- The types of plans it offers
- How big of a help it is to Ukraine
- How much money Starlink (likely) makes
- Its losses per terminal
- How much the total constellation will cost
- How many satellites Starlink launched thus far
- And how many of those remain in orbit
- What Starlink’s plans for Gen2 satellites are
- When its first satellites were launched
- And what new ones it has in store
- Their distance to the earth
- Where Starlink is available
- The total number of gateway locations
- Global roaming availability
- Buying isn’t your only option
So, without further ado, let’s bring you some of the most interesting facts about Starlink.
Starlink has surpassed 2 million customers
It took SpaceX and Starlink a mere 2 years to be able to reach the inaugural mark of 1 million customers. And just six months later, that number swelled to 1.5 million.
Just for reference: Starlink’s biggest competitor in the United States, namely Hughes Network, ‘only’ boasts 1.3 million subscribers after substantially more years in operation.
Sources: Starlink Insider
Starlink has grown subscribers sevenfold in 2022 alone
Here’s a quick breakdown of the subscriber milestones that Starlink reached since it launched in November 2020:
|Number of subscribers
A year into the business (11/2021), Starlink had amassed 140,000 subscribers. It increased the subscriber count almost sevenfold from 11/2021 to 12/2022.
Part of that growth is simply grounded in word-of-mouth. However, a huge aspect has also been Starlink’s involvement in Ukraine and Iran as well as the expansion of its coverage areas.
300,000 people are subscribed to Starlink’s Roam plan
Starlink, according to its Twitter account, has over 300,000 customers subscribed to just its Roam plan.
That product alone likely nets SpaceX a minimum of $30 million in revenue every month.
The Roam numbers are somewhat outdated, so we can assume that Starlink’s subscriber count for the Roam option has risen quite a bit since.
Around 60% of Starlink’s customers are located in the United States
According to a December 2023 FCC filing, 1.3 million of Starlink’s 2.2 million customers are based in the US.
This is little surprising considering the lack of connectivity many rural areas in the US suffer from. Plus, it was the first country that Starlink launched in.
Starlink’s adoption has only accelerated after the Residential tier was made available throughout the country.
Australia is nothing to scoff at, either
Australia is another country where we have customer data. Around 120,000 people are subscribed to Starlink (based on May 2023 data).
And Starlink is growing rapidly: just in February 2023, it crossed 100,000 customers. Local services like NBN are certainly starting to feel the pain.
Source: Financial Review
Starlink now offers 7 different internet plans
More precisely, they are called Residential, RV (now called Roam), Portability, Best Effort, Business, Aviation, and Maritime.
Both individual consumers and businesses can now receive access to Starlink. Other options, such as a mobile network, are projected to be launched in 2024.
Sources: Starlink Insider
Ukraine has received 40,000 Starlink terminals to date
That’s according to Ukraine’s digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov who confirmed the figure in a video posted on his Twitter account.
Starlink quickly received over 10,000 when the war initially broke out. Some, like the British government, are allegedly paying $2,500 per month for each terminal, making it a lucrative business for Starlink.
Starlink already generates over $2 billion in annual revenue (in all likelihood)
… if we assume that each subscriber would an average monthly fee of $100. In fact, this would equate to annual revenues of $2.4 billion.
However, pricing for Starlink varies greatly depending on the country of residence and type of internet plans the customer opted into.
Also, Starlink has donated a significant number of dishes to Ukraine, which skews revenue numbers a little.
Source: Own Calculations
Starlink previously lost $1,300 on the production of each terminal
Starlink, despite charging $599 in the United States for the hardware set, still managed to lose money on its terminals – $1,300 per unit, to be exact.
However, the firm has been able to vastly reduce manufacturing costs and is now allegedly producing them at break-even costs.
In the beginning, a hardware set would cost $3,000 to produce, meaning the firm lost around $2,500 when it first launched.
Sources: PC Mag
It will cost between $20 billion to $30 billion to deploy Starlink’s constellation
At least according to SpaceX CEO Musk who forecasted total investment costs to be as high as $30 billion during a video interview with the Mobile World Congress.
At the same time, he also pointed out that positive cash flow could be reached at a cost of $5 billion to $10 billion.
A total of 5,422 Starlink satellites have been launched thus far
This, at least, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell. Most of those satellites have been transported onboard SpaceX’s Falcon rocket.
The newest Gen2 satellite will primarily be shipped via SpaceX’s Starship rocket, which is set for orbital test flights throughout 2023 and beyond.
However, only 5,057 remain in orbit while 4,472 are still operational
Satellites deorbit for a variety of reasons. In general, SpaceX’s Gen1 satellites only have a lifespan of 5 to 6 years, so the entire fleet needs to be continuously replaced.
Starlink loses satellites for a variety of reasons. Back in February 2022, for example, it lost 40 of them to a geomagnetic storm.
Also, humans don’t need to fear being hit by satellites coming crashing back down on earth. Most of the satellite’s parts burn up when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.
Starlink aims to deploy 30,000 Gen2 satellites
However, the FCC has only approved 7,500 thus far. The agency imposed the limit “to address concerns about orbital debris and space safety.”
To that extent, SpaceX recently agreed to a partnership with the US National Science Foundation to prevent Starlink satellites from interfering with astronomy
The first 60 satellites were launched in May 2019
More precisely, on May 23, 2019, 60 Gen1 satellites were transported onboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which continues to carry out the majority of Starlink missions.
And Gen2 Mini satellites have now taken over
On February 27th, 2023, Starlink deployed a total of 21 Gen2 (or V2) Mini satellites, representing the next and upgraded version of its V1 and V1.5 satellites.
And now, Starlink is exclusively launching Gen2 Minis. They are, however, the smaller version of the actual Gen2 satellites mentioned above.
But don’t be fooled by their name: Gen2 Minis weigh 2.5x as much as V1.5 sats and boast 4x the total bandwidth (20 Gbps vs. 80 Gbps).
The even bigger Gen2 satellites are going to be transported on top of Starship – SpaceX’s rocket that will hopefully take us to Mars (but first has to launch).
Sources: Starlink Insider
Starlink satellites orbit 342 miles (550 kilometers) above the earth
One of the biggest reasons why astronomers are concerned about Starlink’s impact on the night sky is the fact that its satellites fly across earth’s low orbit (LEO).
SpaceX, apart from partnering with other government bodies, continues to address those concerns in a variety of ways. For example, newer Starlink satellites are covered in darker coating to prevent reflection.
Starlink is available in 65+ countries
And many more are set to launch. Throughout 2023, Starlink is going to expand across South America and Africa, among other countries.
We also keep a detailed overview of all markets Starlink is available in as well as what the firm charges for its Residential plan in each of those. Feel free to click on the link in the sources.
Starlink operates over 150 live ground stations
Ground stations, or gateways, are required to emit signals between satellites in LEO and user terminals.
Most of the firm’s gateways (> 70%) are situated in the North America where Starlink’s customers primarily come from.
Global roaming is available now
For $200 a month, subscribers can now use Starlink in the 50+ countries it is licensed to operate in.
The introduction of what Starlink calls Roam is a result of a rebrand from the previous RV moniker.
Source: Starlink Insider
And you can even rent Starlink equipment
Back in early March 2023, Starlink introduced the ability to rent Starlink equipment instead of outright purchasing it.
Subscribers simply just pay a monthly rental fee on top of the regular subscription price. As a result, you don’t have to pay for the hardware – granted you return it in an acceptable condition.
Source: Starlink Insider