SpaceX’s satellite internet provider, Starlink, aimed to have 20 million users by 2022 but fell far short of their goal, ending the previous year with only 1 million customers. Currently, their user base stands at 1.5 million. In terms of revenue, Starlink reported a total of $1.4 billion last year, a significant increase from the previous year’s $222 million but still far below the projected $12 billion in revenue and $7 billion in operating profit predicted in 2015.
Despite the disappointing numbers, satellite internet remains an important innovation, particularly for bridging the connectivity gap in remote areas. Starlink has launched 5,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit and continues to expand coverage by adding more. The challenges faced by Starlink include expensive equipment fees and rocket launches.
One of the main obstacles to higher subscriber numbers is the high cost of equipment. Residential antennas are priced at $599 each, while high-use customers, such as businesses, can pay anywhere from $2,500 to $150,000. SpaceX initially sold the devices at a loss, with manufacturing costs amounting to $3,000. However, they have managed to reduce the cost to under $600 per terminal and plan to further lower prices to attract more customers.
Lowering the initial equipment costs is crucial to compete with cheaper terrestrial options like broadband or fiber-optic connections. Starlink currently charges between $90 and $120 per month, depending on the location, while terrestrial options offer lower monthly bills and more reliable connections.
To diversify revenue sources, Starlink is forming partnerships with various enterprises. An agreement was recently made with SES, a European satellite operator, to provide satellite services on cruise ships. The company is also exploring partnerships with international shipping companies, offshore oil rigs, and airlines.
While Starlink has faced revenue losses in recent years, it reported a small profit in the first three months of 2023. Despite the challenges ahead, SpaceX continues to expand Starlink’s coverage and aims to achieve greater success in the satellite internet market.