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SpaceX: Starlink Maritime is ready for yachts, ships and oil rigs

Starlink Maritime costs $10,000 to set up but SpaceX argues it's much cheaper than traditional satellite broadband.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty/Gary John Norman

SpaceX boss Elon Musk has announced a new Starlink broadband service for everything from merchant vessels to oil rigs to premium yachts.

Dubbed Starlink Maritime, the satellite-delivered broadband service promises "high-speed, low-latency internet with up to 350 Mbps download while at sea."

"Starlink Maritime allows you to connect from some of the most remote waters in the world," Musk announced on Twitter

Starlink Maritime is a lot more expensive than the recently launched Starlink for RVs, which cost $599 for the hardware plus a monthly service fee of $135. The service was only guaranteed to work when the vehicle was stationary.  

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Per TechCrunch, Starlink Maritime's hardware consists of two terminals and costs $10,000 plus a monthly fee of $5,000. Starlink software engineer Joseph Scarantino explained on Twitter that Maritime's dual-dish setup quadruples performance to reduce latency and signal loss at sea by creating a wider field of view. Like the standard service, it requires a clear view of the sky.

While the price is high, SpaceX argues it's actually a lot cheaper than traditional very small aperture satellite (VSAT) internet service. It's published a case study about its own prior use of an unnamed VSAT service for connectivity on SpaceX "droneships" it uses to recover rockets at sea. 

The VSAT service was costing SpaceX $165,000 a month for its fleet versus Starlink maritime, which cost it a flat fee of $5,000 per vessel per month (presumably for a single terminal rather than the dual terminals being sold) and resulted in a total monthly cost of $50,000. 

It also claims the VSAT service was delivering just 25 Mbps symmetrical speeds and 1-2 second latency. SpaceX claims each installation of Starlink Maritime was delivering 40 Mbps maximum upload speeds with 50ms latency.

The service is for all maritime vessels, from merchant ships to oil rigs. 

"Starlink Maritime allows you to connect from the most remote waters across the world, just like you would in the office or at home," the company said.

Indeed, it would be handy for anyone who can count a private yacht as part of their hybrid work mix. Preferably for Musk though, these won't be Tesla employees who he's demanded return to the office and work a minimum of 40 hours a week from there or leave.   

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Starlink Maritime can be paused when it's not needed and restarted when necessary. The service is billed in one-month increments. 

SpaceX promises users will be able to remotely monitor and manage a Starlink fleet from a single portal. The service also offers end-to-end encryption – something that isn't always offered by VSAT services. 

The Starlink Maritime coverage map indicates the service currently hugs the coastlines of the US, Australia and Europe. However, SpaceX plans to start expanding coverage across the North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean by Q4 2022 and then start expanding coverage to the South Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean in Q1 2023.       

Image: SpaceX
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