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SpaceX hopes to offer satellite internet to customers by mid-2020

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
AP Photo/John Raoux

SpaceX has Starlink internet satellites in orbit, but when is it going to offer honest-to-goodness service? You may have to wait a little while. Company President Gwynne Shotwell told a media roundtable that SpaceX hoped to offer Starlink broadband to US customers in mid-2020. Service will depend on putting enough satellites into use, and that will require six to eight missions including the one from May. Just don't ask about prices and plans at this stage -- the only clue is that this will be "additive" to SpaceX's main business instead of a primary money maker.

Shotwell added that the approval request for 30,000 extra satellites didn't necessarily mean SpaceX would build and launch them all. It needs considerably fewer satellites (about 24 launches' worth) to cover the planet. Rather, this is overhead that would let SpaceX offer customized service for clients. Elon Musk reiterated at the roundtable that SpaceX was testing encrypted internet services for US Air Force aircraft.

As before, there's reason for SpaceX to hurry. Amazon is also hoping to deploy broadband satellites, OneWeb is delivering its own vehicles, and Alphabet's Loon balloons have already seen service. If SpaceX takes too long, it risks losing customers to rivals that would be more than happy to fill the gap.