Starlink Broadband Launch New Mini Dish and Mini Roam Service

Early adopters of SpaceX’s ultrafast and low-latency Starlink broadband service, which is powered by a mega constellation of small satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), are starting to be invited to help test out the internet provider’s new WiFi integrate Mini Dish (terminal) hardware and Mini Roaming service add-on. But the kit doesn’t come cheap.

The operator currently has 6,171 LEO satellites in orbit around the Earth (altitudes of c.500-600km) and they’re in the process of adding thousands more by the end of 2027. Customers in the UK typically pay from £75 a month for a 30-day term, plus £299 for hardware on the ‘Standard’ plan, which promises internet latency times of 25-60ms, downloads of c. 25-100Mbps and uploads of c. 5-10Mbps.

NOTE: At the end of 2023 Starlink’s global network had 2.3 million customers and 42,000 of those were in the UK (up from 13,000 in 2022) – mostly in rural areas. Customers using Starlink in remote locations will experience higher latency (e.g. Oceans, Islands, Antarctica, Alaska, Northern Canada etc.).

However, this week saw the operator begin to invite some of their early adopters in the USA (UK availability is due to follow soon) to purchase their new Mini Kit (Dish) for $599 (£473), which comes bundled alongside their new Mini Roam service for an additional $30 per month (£24). Just to be clear, this is on top of an existing residential subscription (as above), although the hardware price is expected to drop in the future.

SpaceX said in their customer email: “Starlink Mini is a compact, portable kit that can easily fit in a backpack, designed to provide high-speed, low-latency internet on the go. Starlink Mini includes a built-in WiFi router, lower power consumption, DC power input, and max download speeds over 100Mbps.” See related specifications here and here.

The new Mini Roam service that accompanies this will essentially give customers 50GB (GigaBytes) of “mobile data” that can be used anywhere (currently only in the USA) and if you use more than that then they’ll charge $1 (£0.80p) per GigaByte.

The new dish – sized 298.5mm x 259mm x 38.5mm – is also 63% lighter than the standard Starlink dish, has an operating temperature range of -30°C to 50°C (-22°F to 122°F), draws around 25-40 Watts on average and can run directly off 12-48V DC (it comes with a small 110V power supply with 15 metres of cable). The kit is also IP67 Type 4 rated with their DC Power Cable and Starlink Plug/Cable installed (using the Ethernet port drops this rating).

The dish also has a Field of View (FoV) of 110 degrees (a bit better than ‘Standard’), a single Ethernet (LAN) port and is currently software locked to operate only while stationary (being Starlink, they’ll probably charge extra for a moving service in the future).

Clearly, there are some advantages to this new all-in-one approach to terminal hardware, although oddly the built-in WiFi is only dual-band (3×3) 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) instead of Wi-Fi 6 and has a limited radius of coverage (i.e. you’d need to stay close to the dish, but that’s to be expected given the target audience)

Our goal is to reduce the price of Starlink, especially for those around the world where connectivity has been unaffordable or completely unavailable. But in regions with high usage, where Starlink Mini places additional demand on the satellite network, we are offering a limited number of the Starlink Mini Kits to start for $599,” said Starlink’s email.

The first deliveries of the new kit are due to start in July 2024, but it’s worth remembering that this is currently still somewhat of a trial product and we don’t yet have an exact date for the UK launch / pricing.

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