from the pay-more-to-get-less dept
While Space X’s Starlink is a promising broadband option if you’re out of range of traditional options (and can afford it), many users who’ve pre-ordered aren’t having a great time. Some say they’ve been waiting for service more than a year, during which time Starlink has often refused to answer basic emails or issue refunds, while imposing price hikes on waiting customers.
Waiting customers are also annoyed because Starlink keeps introducing new plans that allow users to skip the wait… if they pay more than those who’ve spent the last year patiently waiting.
For example, back in February Starlink offered a new “premium” tier. While basic Starlink customers already pay $600 for hardware and $110 a month for variable-speed service, premium users can pay $2500 up front for hardware. That not only netted those users faster speed, but the hardware shipped sooner than those who had already been waiting patiently for months.
This week, Starlink unveiled another option specifically aimed at RV enthusiasts. The new service allows you to affix a satellite to your mobile home if you’re willing to pay $25 more each month ($135 a month). While your speeds will be deprioritized on the network while traveling (read: slower), users who sign up for this option are also being allowed to skip long waits if they’re willing to pay more for service.
Unsurprisingly, some Reddit users who’ve been waiting in some cases more than a year aren’t particularly happy:
Just another way to ask for more $$ and being able to order immediately, when instead people like me are waiting since Feb/8/2021 , paid $99 deposit , and getting nothing even with the already increased price for the hardware and monthly service .
The fact that Starlink has introduced what are basically business-class tiers and a mobile RV tier aren’t really the issue. The issue is that Starlink has been unable to respond to basic customer inquiries about long wait times, much less provide refunds to those waiting for more than a year if they want them, so adding the option to skip the queue if you pay even more is a bit of a slap in the face.
Granted many of those users have no broadband access at all, and may be motivated to sign up for the deprioritized, more expensive RV service, which will… result in long wait times for the RV product as well.
Starlink’s issue is that the service capacity is capped out at somewhere around 800,000 total users for the first few years. So the company’s in a race to keep Starlink financially viable (which Musk himself has claimed may not be possible), while simultaneously keeping pre-orders from defecting en masse after long waits and taking their down payment with them.
Somewhere between 20 and 40 million Americans lack access to any broadband whatsoever. 83 million more currently live under a broadband monopoly, usually their cable provider. That’s an awful lot of demand Starlink won’t be able to meet for a very long time even if everything goes perfectly (which it isn’t). The entry price of $600 down and $110 a month is also far too steep for many of those disconnected users.
This is all a fairly delicate balancing act that could easily go wrong if Starlink can’t keep pace with demand and balance irritable users that have been waiting for an extremely long time for service. Musk fans have a lot of patience, but even that patience will eventually find its limit.