Chip Shortages Mar Starlink's Long-Awaited Exit From Beta

from the potentially-undercooked dept

Elon Musk’s Starlink has finally exited beta, but chip shortages may mar the low-orbit broadband satellite venture’s big day. The company has technically stopped calling Starlink a beta product, but warns in a new FAQ on its website that users expecting shipments of their new satellite dishes may be waiting a while:

“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.?

Over 500,000 users have signed up for the broadband service which delivers speeds of 100 Mbps or more for $100 a month (plus a $500 first month equipment charge). Users who had signed up for the service were already complaining that Starlink often just doesn’t respond to customer support inquiries asking when a user’s dish will ship, and this was before chip shortages entered the picture. There was also another Starlink website bug revealed this week that pushed back user pre-order dates by a year or more if they made tiny account changes.

Early reviews of the service have also been decidedly mixed, with complaints about line of sight and sporadic outages.

Starlink has consistently been heralded as a potential solution for the U.S.’ broadband competition problem, but capacity and physics mean the service’s overall reach was always going to be limited. Even Musk, who has a propensity to oversell his products, has acknowledged that the service won’t be able to offer service in most densely populated urban and suburban areas. In other words, U.S. monopolies aren’t sweating Starlink’s entry into the market.

Early, pre-chip shortage estimates suggest that Starlink will struggle to deliver service to somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 users, with many of those spots likely gobbled up by Musk fans. The service’s $600 first month price point is also out of reach for the millions of Americans who can’t afford broadband. With up to 42 million Americans without broadband access — and another 83 million living under a monopoly — even Starlink’s maximum potential impact (which assumes the company can remain financially viable) will barely put a dent in the problem.

So yeah, Starlink will be a very good thing if you can get it, can afford it, and have no other options. But actually getting it will likely prove tricky for many. That’s why there was some annoyance at the FCC throwing millions of dollars in subsidies at the planet’s richest man for a service even he acknowledges many be tricky to keep financially viable over the longer haul.

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Companies: spacex, starlink

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