Despite SpaceX’s claim that it could have global coverage for its Starlink satellite Internet access by September, it is officially pushing some communities’ access to Starlink back to 2023. It cites high demand for Starlink as the reason for its decision.
SpaceX is currently taking pre-orders for access to Starlink and delivery of the necessary equipment. More than 500,000 customers have already signed up and made a deposit. When new users sign up, they typically receive an expected delivery date, which until now has been sometime in 2021 or 2022.
However, one customer in northern Virginia says that the estimated delivery date displayed on SpaceX’s website is now sometime in 2023. The customer posted a screenshot of the expected delivery date on Reddit. According to the available screenshots, Starlink’s website claimed that the Internet service is currently full to capacity in the customer’s area – meaning that people in northern Virginia may have to wait a little longer for access to Starlink.
SpaceX’s limited ability to churn out Starlink terminals could account for a lot of the delivery slowdowns in some areas, especially when crimps in the supply chain become a factor. SpaceX President Gwynn Shotwell says that the global semiconductor chip shortage is making it difficult to manufacture the required equipment fast enough. “We need the electronic piece part situation to settle down so that we can actually build the user terminals for the folks that want the service,” she said.
The semiconductor chip shortage has also hit automakers like Tesla hard, especially considering efforts to ramp up production of electric vehicles to meet some countries’ and U.S. States’ requirement to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030. Tesla had floated the possibility of acquiring a semiconductor chip manufacturer in an attempt to secure a reliable supply.
The 2023 delivery date for some parts of Virginia is still just an estimate and there is a chance that the equipment could arrive sooner if SpaceX can make manufacturing more efficient. SpaceX currently takes a loss on the equipment that includes a terminal and the equipment needed to mount it, which it manufactures for about $1,000 and sells for $499 (plus $50 for shipping). SpaceX personnel have discussed bringing the manufacturing cost down.
SpaceX has also shown a willingness to work out deals for providing early access to the Starlink satellite Internet service to communities that need it the most. It is working with a Texas school district to provide free Internet access to low-income students and Native American communities like the Cherokee Nation and Hoh Tribe to improve Internet access for their members.
Starlink currently has more than 90,000 users in 12 countries as part of its “Better than Nothing Beta.” According to Speedtest results, it is beginning to approach speeds that are comparable to traditional broadband. Testers have also said that Starlink terminals perform well in harsh winter conditions, though they could use some improvement for performing in the insanely hot Arizona summers.