Enlarge / Starlink Premium antenna.
Starlink has started taking orders for a premium service with a bigger antenna that delivers download speeds of up to 500Mbps, and it costs five times as much as the standard service: $2,500 for the hardware and $500 per month for Internet access.
“Starlink Premium has more than double the antenna capability of Starlink,” the product’s website says. More specifically, the higher-performance user terminal has “twice the area of our standard phased array with broader scan angle,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. It’s intended for small offices, stores, and residences. The exact physical dimensions of the new user terminal don’t seem to be available.
Ordering Starlink Premium requires a $500 deposit, and deliveries are scheduled to start in Q2 2022. It will be the latter part of Q2, as an FAQ says, “We expect to begin fulfilling Starlink Premium orders mid-2022.” But the timing still means that people who order Starlink Premium could get service before people who have been waiting many months for a shipment of regular Starlink equipment.
“Starlink Premium delivers the same low latency with higher throughput allocation to serve small offices of 10-20 users, storefronts, and residential locations across the globe,” the FAQ says. “Order as many Starlinks as needed, manage all of your service locations from a single account, and access 24/7 priority customer support.”
150-500Mbps with strong performance in “extreme weather”
The website says that “Starlink Premium users can expect download speeds of 150-500Mbps and latency of 20-40ms” and that the pricier tier “helps ensure bandwidth for critical operations even during times of peak network usage.” Premium also offers “improved performance in extreme weather conditions.” Shipments come with the user terminal and base, a Wi-Fi router, and cables. “With Starlink, there are no long-term contracts, no data caps, and no exclusivity requirements,” the Premium webpage says.
The regular Starlink’s advertised download speeds are 100Mbps to 200Mbps. Upload speeds are slower; a comparison chart in a Verge article says expected upload speeds are 10Mbps to 20Mbps for standard Starlink and 20Mbps to 40Mbps for Premium.
Standard Starlink service costs $99 a month plus $499 for hardware. Ship times for new orders are longer than with Premium—at my address in Massachusetts, regular Starlink can be ordered for “late 2022,” while Starlink Premium is available for Q2 2022.
The decision to add a premium tier is a change from SpaceX’s previously stated plan to avoid tiered pricing. “I don’t think we’re going to do tiered pricing to consumers. We’re going to try to keep it as simple as possible and transparent as possible, so right now there are no plans to tier for consumers,” SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in April 2021.
Having two tiers is still a lot simpler than pricing for most dominant ISPs in the US, particularly given that Starlink Premium is intended for small businesses and only a small portion of home Internet users. The biggest annoyances for people who just want Starlink service without paying five times as much are the vague shipping estimates and long wait times. While Starlink says that additional satellite launches will boost availability, capacity varies by region, and the global chip shortage has contributed to delays in shipments.