Elon Musk said his private space company SpaceX is ready to spend up to $ 30 billion to establish Starlink, its satellite internet network which now has 70,000 users in 12 countries.
Musk said Starlink is in the process of providing global coverage – “everywhere except the poles” – by August and aims to have half a million users “in 12 months.”
SpaceX currently has 1,500 low-orbit satellites that provide broadband internet service for Starlink, a service that fills geographic gaps between areas covered by terrestrial and 5G fiber connections, Musk said. At maximum capacity the service will have 12,000 satellites.
“It’s really aimed at sparsely populated regions,” Musk said, speaking from California in a video interview for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “We’ve really reached the parts of the world that are the hardest to reach – the hardest to reach 3 percent, maybe 5 percent.”
The $ 30 billion investment figure cited by Musk was new and is multiplied higher than previous forecasts, although it is unclear whether this projection can be directly compared to previous estimates. Musk said the numbers will vary depending on whether the development of the Falcon 9 rifle is included.
In a 2018 TED Talk, chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said setting up 12,000 satellites would cost “about $ 10 billion or more.”
Musk said SpaceX expects to invest between $ 5 billion and $ 10 billion in Starlink before it becomes a positive cash flow, and overall estimates the costs to be between $ 20 billion and $ 30 billion. “It’s a lot, basically,” he said.
Musk has not commented on Starlink’s revenue potential, but in the past has predicted that it could reach $ 30 billion in annual revenue by 2025.
Musk acknowledged that all previous attempts to provide constellation-based broadband services, dating back to the 1990s, have failed. He joked that, a few years ago, his goal was simply to avoid failure.
The cost of a Starlink “terminal,” or satellite dish, is $ 499, plus a monthly subscription cost of $ 99. Musk said the hardware currently costs about double what it charges customers.
The billionaire businessman also said that Starlink signed two major telecommunications partners, but refused to call them.
In December, the Starlink project received nearly $ 900 million in U.S. federal grants to support rural broadband connections. The prize represented about one-tenth of a $ 9.2 billion auction sale held by the Federal Communications Commission and will be distributed monthly for a decade.