SpaceX’s Starlink has rolled out a Community Gateways offering, targeting internet service providers (ISPs) to bring high-speed internet to remote locations.
However, the service comes with a hefty price tag: $75,000 per Gbps monthly and a $1.25 million upfront cost.
The initiative isn’t just about satellite dishes; it involves constructing facilities capable of handling up to 10Gbps broadband speeds (both download and upload).
The first successful deployment of this program is in Unalaska. Local ISP OptimERA is utilizing the gateway, demonstrating its capacity to significantly improve broadband access in isolated areas.
Despite the high cost, the program offers potential benefits for ISPs focused on rural internet deployment – especially when contrasted against other offerings.
GCI is currently $275+ per month per megabit, equal to $2.75 million per 10 Gb of throughput (vs. $750,000 that Starlink charges).
The technology behind this program involves Starlink’s global laser mesh network operating in a dedicated Ka spectrum band.
This initiative could encourage the formation of rural internet cooperatives, similar to electric co-ops, by pooling resources to afford the technology.
It represents an opportunity for ISPs to extend their services to hard-to-reach areas, especially in those where installing fiber simply isn’t economical.
OptimERA owner Emmett Fitch previously said that his firm operates a cell-and-microwave tower near the community gateway (alongside other hardware), which then distributes the Starlink signal around town.
The Community Gateways program is Starlink’s latest attempt in attracting B2B customers to better utilize unused capacity.
In a recent presentation to SpaceX employees, CEO Musk also highlighted Starlink’s adoption across the globe:
As you can see, most usage occurs within North America, with many parts of the globe not being utilized at all (some countries, like South Africa, are deliberately blacked out).
What’s particularly appealing about the program is the potential lock-in effect Starlink could create.
Once installed, it’s unlikely that a government or B2B customers would switch to another provider, especially considering how challenging it would be to install fiber in some locations.
Starlink and SpaceX are currently engaged in a variety of different B2B initiatives. Its newest offering, the Direct-to-Cell service, recently celebrated a major breakthrough by sending the first messages via modified Gen2 Mini satellites.