Elon Musk wants to change the way people and the industry approach satellite Internet. The main goal of the Starlink project is to provide cheap and fast access to the Internet anywhere on the planet. The company recently launched beta testing of the new service in the United States and Canada. Thanks to this, we got acquainted with a few details about the appearance and working principle of subscriber devices connected to Starlink satellites.
Some people believe that satellite Internet has many disadvantages and only one advantage. Of course, the biggest advantage of this solution over mobile networks is the wider range. Unfortunately, this is due to slow transfers, high delays, high investment and high payments. In addition, there is a need to use parabolic antennas, which must be directed to the satellite. However, Elon Musk solved these problems by offering an image of a dense network of small satellites moving in orbits at altitudes of 335 km to 1325 km. Of course, to make it profitable, Starlink had to find a way to reduce the cost of producing the satellites themselves and those involved in their orbit. At present, about 530 Starlins fly over our heads, and as a result, their number will reach 12,000. However, the current figure allows for beta testing and services in selected geographical areas. We are currently talking about the northern part of the United States and the southern part of Canada.
Starlink terminals will soon reach the first beta testers
People who take the Starlink beta test will not be able to publish their results online. However, SpaceX provides individual photos and pieces of information that give an approximate idea of how the new service works. Currently, the best private source of information is Reddit TwitterHere, Elon Musk himself talks about technical issues.
Let’s get started. The terminal itself consists of an antenna resembling a parabolic antenna. However, no converter comes out of it, and the geometry itself has nothing to do with the antennas used to receive satellite television. Elon Musk described it as “UFO on a stick“.
In addition, the antenna is equipped with motors that allow you to automatically place the dish to ensure the best possible connection parameters. As a result, the installation of the terminal is simple and does not require any expert knowledge. Currently, due to the limited scope of the service, the user only needs to install the antenna where the northern part of the sky is clearly visible. It can stand in the garden, on the roof or on a table.
The Ethernet cable shown in the photo above is used to connect to both the power supply and the router. It will be less visible in the target version of the antenna.
The Starlink router only supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)
Finally, Elon Musk’s satellite Internet is offering data download speeds of up to 1 Gbit / s. However, you must use a cable connection to access them. The Starlink router has already received FCC certification. Thanks to this, we know its technical characteristics. The device will operate in two bands, namely 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The on-board chipset operates at 802.11ac at a physical speed of up to 866.7 Mbit / s.
Photos of the router have not been published yet. It is known from FCC documents that it will have a triangular shape. Production is carried out by Taiwan’s Wistron NeWeb Corp., which has experience in the telecommunications industry.
The cost of terminal production will be crucial for Starlink’s success
Elon Musk does not hide that Starlink will become a popular solution only when all costs can be reduced. Initially, SpaceX focused on reducing the cost of transporting satellites. Then came the design of small and inexpensive Starlink mini-satellites. At the end there is a terminal, it should also be cheap. Therefore, it is not surprising that this device does not support the latest Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E standard. It is quite possible that the 2nd generation Starlink router will already support it.
However, the biggest secret was how Elon Musk wanted to achieve the low cost of the antenna itself. Satellite solutions using low-orbit satellites are equipped with electrically controlled beam phase array antennas. However, the cost of such solutions is about four times higher than stated by Elon Musk. It is quite possible that the reduction in the cost of the antenna was made possible by the use of motors that provide mechanical beam control. Alternatively, SpaceX engineers were able to combine both technologies and develop a hybrid solution. It is quite possible that the secret behind the Spacelink terminal antenna will be revealed only after the launch of the service. Beta testers are covered by a privacy clause that prevents them from publishing any information.