SpaceX’s Treat & Trick: Starlink Beta Is (Sort Of) Over, But Nothing (Much) Has Changed

Key Points:

  • SpaceX has dropped the word “Beta” from the Starlink website.
  • Despite the terminology change, the promised Starlink “nationwide rollout” has not arrived.
  • A new Starlink FAQ blames “silicon shortages” for the delay in fulfilling orders.
Starlink Out Of Beta
Elon Musk started a wave of speculation with this Tweet late in September. But – just what would “coming out of beta” look like? It seems it primarily means dropping the word “Beta” from Starlink’s website.

Last month (October) Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service was slated for a “nationwide rollout by end of month” – and the month before he tweeted that the Starlink beta period would be ending in October.

October has come and gone – and though the word “Beta” has now been dropped from the Starlink website, overall Starlink availability still remains extremely limited and nothing much has actually changed.

Is SpaceX playing Halloween tricks?

What is the latest with the Starlink nationwide rollout?

Table of Contents

Starlink Ends Beta Video Overview

 

Starlink: “Nothing Has Changed”

When SpaceX debuted a redesigned Starlink website late last week that dropped all mentions of Starlink being in beta release, many expected that this might be the long-anticipated end of the Starlink “Better Than Nothing Beta” and the beginning of wider general availability across the country.

But Starlink support has been giving people who write in this stock reply:

“The website redesign was long overdue, however, nothing has changed to the Terms of Service you agreed to upon signup. We will communicate any future changes with you ahead of time, but we are still in “beta” of sorts – we just don’t want that verbiage littered throughout our website anymore!”

Digging deeper into the new Starlink website, however, a few details have changed.

Most encouragingly, the Starlink FAQ now promises “download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations.”

That’s a shift from the old site that told customers to “expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations” – and these improvements seem to match the recent experiences observed by many during the Starlink beta testing.

Silicon Shortages and Rollout Delays

Starlink Order 2023
Starlink availability had already been pushed all the way out to 2023 in some areas.

While nothing much has changed for current Starlink customers, some customers with pending orders (many who placed $99 deposits way back in February!) have seen their shipping estimates on the new Starlink website slip from “Mid to Late 2021” to “Early to Mid 2022”.

Prospective customers placing new orders in many places are seeing delivery estimates pushed all the way back to “late 2022, early 2023” in some locations that used to still promise 2021 – indicating that SpaceX expects that it will take at least this long to begin catching up on providing enough receiver equipment and satellite capacity to meet the demand.

A new Starlink FAQ explains that silicon shortages may (in part) be to blame:

If you place your order where we have coverage and capacity, you will receive a confirmation email with your order number, service and shipping address, and can view your shipping details on your Account page. We typically ship Starlink Kits out within 2 weeks.

If you are placing an order in an area where we don’t have coverage or capacity, you will see an estimated service date on the order page, which you can also view on your Account page. When service becomes available in your area, we will send you an email and you’ll have the opportunity to update your shipping, service, and billing details, or cancel your order. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis in each area. We will be able to accommodate more users per area over time as we increase the number of satellites in orbit.

Silicon shortages have delayed production which has impacted our ability to fulfill orders. Please visit your Account page for the most recent estimate on when you can expect your order to be fulfilled.

Warning: Starlink Service Address Changes

The new Starlink website makes it easier for customers with pending orders to manage their account – even opening the online Starlink store up to allow people to purchase mounting hardware in advance of their Dishy arriving.

But the new Starlink website also makes it easier for customers with pending orders to change their service address.

If you are still waiting for Starlink, DO NOT UPDATE YOUR ADDRESS!

Several RVers with pending orders have reported that changing their service address by as little as a few meters (by dragging the dot on a map) will move your shipping estimate back to the end of the line for your location – potentially transforming a “Mid to Late 2021” into an additional year’s delay.

Starlink Rollout Update

Starlink Wide Rollout
Starlink did not meet Elon’s goal of a “nationwide rollout” in October. But a handful of people in areas that have never been served before have reported getting long-pending orders processed recently.

Elon Musk’s promise of a “nationwide rollout” in October has clearly not come to pass – with many areas seemingly still not slated for service any time soon.

But we have seen more and more reports of Starlink orders going out to new areas, and some traveling RVers who move their Dishy from place-to-place as they go have reported that moving locations has been getting more reliable.

But there are still vast areas of the country where Starlink has not been turned on yet, and many more areas where Starlink is enabled but already “at capacity”.

These “at capacity” areas will likely remain full for a while – SpaceX has been slow to launch new Starlink satellites, with no launches in October and none yet officially scheduled for November.

Starlink Mobility FAQ
The Starlink FAQ makes it clear that SpaceX is not (yet) ready to deal with mobile users.

Starlink in Mexico!

In other news – SpaceX has started to ship Starlink service to the first few customers in Mexico – but snowbirds from the United States and Canada should NOT plan on being able to take their Starlink receivers down south.

As also noted in the FAQ shared above, SpaceX is “not able to support moves to a different country” – likely because Starlink is being run as a legally independent subsidiary in each country where service has been enabled, and it just hasn’t been worth it for SpaceX to figure out the legal gymnastics to allow roaming or moving device registrations.

This means that anyone hoping to get online via Starlink in Baja this winter should plan on potentially needing to buy a dedicated Mexican Dish.

The same restrictions apply to moving between Canada and the USA as well.

So What Next?

chris starlink dishy
The current Starlink “Dishy” receiver is extremely complex and expensive to manufacture. SpaceX is rushing to bring a cost-reduced version to market.

No one who has paid attention to Elon Musk for long is surprised to see Starlink rolling out slower than Elon’s tweets might have indicated.

He is notorious for overly optimistic “Elon time” forecasts.

But it is clear that SpaceX continues to make progress – and we expect that production capacity for both satellites and Dishy receivers is ramping up.

And until the new cheaper-to-manufacture Dishy is ready, it is actually in SpaceX’s financial interest to delay rolling out service to new customers, considering they are selling the current Dishy at a huge loss.

When the new Dishy is ready to go – we expect to see SpaceX ramping up the Starlink rollout much more aggressively.

Until then…

The beta might be over, but not much has changed.

Further Reading

And here is all of our recent satellite internet coverage:

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