SpaceX has revealed unexpected plans for a “Premium” Starlink service package with significantly improved performance and an extra-rugged user terminal (antenna/dish).
The company says that deliveries of the upgraded dish could begin as early as Q2 2022, providing prospective users – including “small offices, storefronts, and super users” – with almost three times the peak performance and a larger dish capable of operating in even more extreme environments without issue. There’s just one catch.
According to SpaceX’s order page, the “larger, rectangular” Stalink Premium dish will cost $2500, require a $500 deposit, and cost $500 per month – five times more expensive than regular Starlink service by every measure. For that 500% upcharge, SpaceX promises users latency of 20-40 ms and speeds of 150-500 Mbps, whereas the default Starlink dish costs $500 upfront and $99 per month for the same latency and speeds of 100-200 Mbps.
In other words, in a worst-case scenario, Starlink Premium users could pay 500% more for speeds that are actually 33% slower than the best experience SpaceX promises regular Starlink users. In a best-case scenario, premium users would pay exactly five times as much for five times the worst performance promised by regular Starlink service. Of course, that’s just a pessimistic appraisal of the situation. Judged optimistically, much like basic Starlink users sometimes report speeds of 300+ Mbps, it’s possible that some Starlink Premium users might actually see speeds closer to a full gigabit per second (1 Gbps).
Per the largest community of active Starlink users, it’s not entirely clear if SpaceX’s internet service has reached the point that it’s reliable enough for businesses to depend on, let alone individuals or homes. However, SpaceX does promise that Premium users will receive “24/7, prioritized support,” which could substantially improve the viability of the service for businesses seriously considering it. Heading into 2022, basic Starlink users generally continue to report a mixed bag of experiences with basic Starlink support, with many concluding that SpaceX’s user growth may have outpaced the growth of the company’s customer service division.
Nonetheless, a low-volume premium offering is unlikely to substantially impact the company’s basic offering or user experience and the Premium dish’s extra-rugged build could make it an option for users in extremely hot or cold environments. Perhaps the upgrades in the premium dishes will also trickle down into more affordable hardware over time, opening up Starlink to those that live in extreme climates but can’t spend $6000 a year on internet service.