SpaceX satellite broadband trial aims for global coverage by 2021

SpaceX has released a public beta test of its Starlink broadband internet service, which is beamed to users via small satellites.

Various local government departments across the US are already using it, but it is now being rolled out to a select group of individual consumers.

The initiative is aiming for "near global coverage of the populated world" sometime next year, according to the description of an app developed by SpaceX that's intended to help users set up and monitor their Starlink service.

The monthly subscription cost for the beta program is $99, with users also required to make a single payment of $499 for hardware, including a user terminal, mounting tripod and Wi-Fi router.

SpaceX has launched more than 800 of the small satellites that will power its broadband network. The company said last year that coverage across the US could be achieved with only 720 satellites, with around 1,800 satellites needed to provide service to most of the world.

This constellation of satellites could eventually number as many as 30,000 in low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX appears to see the Starlink broadband service as a major potential revenue stream. Last year, chief executive Elon Musk said that revenue from providing internet service could total $30 billion a year, while launch revenue will probably be around $3 billion a year.

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