Starlink Opens Applications for Beta Program

Elon Musk's massive & growing array of satellites is almost ready for testing

Broadband internet access is still wildly inconsistent across the U.S. Starlink's satellite-based broadband could change that, but first, we have to test it.

Starlink satellites
SpaceX launches Starlink satellites.  SpaceX

Starlink's plan to deliver high-speed broadband to underserved areas is coming into focus. Last week, SpaceX the company launched another 58 Starlink Internet Satellites into orbit for a total of 540. Now it's almost ready to start beta-testing the system.

What's Starlink: For more than a year, SpaceX's been launching 573 lb., self-guided Internet Satellites into low earth orbit with the goal of having a "megaconstellation" of 12,000 that can deliver high-speed internet access to locations where such access is too expensive, unreliable, or simply unavailable. It is, according to SpaceX, which owns Starlink, faster than current satellite-based broadband options.

The beta program: If you visit Starlink's web site right now, there's a link where you can sign up for more information about the service and potential availability in your area. The email confirmation reveals the beta program, which starts later this year:

'Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer, followed by public beta testing, starting with higher latitudes.
If you provided us with your zip code, you will be notified via email if beta testing opportunities become available in your area.'

Do you qualify: Starlink hasn't offered much more information that the "higher latitudes" bit, which may mean areas above the 40th parallel (think north of Kansas). The company might also disqualify areas that already have decent broadband options.

How does it work: Apparently, you'll get a Starlink terminal. On Twitter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that connecting to the Starlink network will eventually be a "plugin & point at sky" operation and "can be done in either order." On your device, the network will look like any other Wi-Fi network.

Bottom line: Reliable, fast internet access is almost as important to the way we live as air and water. Too many people in too many places still don't have broadband access. Starlink could be how underserved communities connect. Even if you're not in one of those areas, your role in helping beta test the system could serve as a crucial step in rolling it out for those who need it most.

Via: ZDNet

Learn More About WiFi