Elon Musk’s Starlink is bringing its satellite internet services to the sea, thanks to a new service tier called Starlink Maritime that currently covers only a small portion of the globe but has ambitious expansion plans by the end of 2023. Starlink, which started offering its services in 2019, currently has over 2,000 internet-beaming satellites in orbit.
Earlier this week, the company got the U.S. FCC nod to launch mobile stations for vehicles in motion. Named Earth Stations in Motion (ESIM), the aim is to turn moving vehicles into internet-offering machines by receiving a beam straight from satellites. So far, Starlink has required a stationary Dishy McFlatface antenna to offer internet connectivity.
Before in-car Starlink can become a reality, though, Earth’s very rich people jetting around in a fancy superyacht can get Starlink gear installed on their swanky marine rides. The concept behind Starlink Maritime is not novel by any stretch of the imagination. However, Musk’s offering brings two key benefits – a relatively affordable price for high-bandwidth internet and the promise of uninterrupted service in a much larger region by leveraging its constellation of internet satellites floating in the Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). Starlink’s internet price for boats and cruise ships is not really palatable for the average at-home broadband user at $5,000 per month, but that’s still a lot more affordable compared to what rivals have to offer, especially when it comes to the data speeds on offer and the price for each GB packet.
As per data compiled by SatelliteInternet, the price of the Sea Tel SAILOR 900 VSAT System is $34,995 for the equipment, while the accompanying data plan price is set at $249 for every 3GB, and higher. But here’s the worst part. The Sea Tel gear only offers speeds of up to 768 kbps for that eye-watering price. Iridium Go charges $653 for every 300 minutes of internet access, but the data transfer rate is capped at an abysmal 768 kbps. In a nutshell, folks who want to enjoy their daily dose of viral TikTok videos while on a boat and miles away from the shore will have to pay top dollar for the experience.
Starlink Maritime is not shying away from its handsome $10,000 asking price for the gear, but that $5,000 per month internet payment is going to solve the speed problem to a large extent. Aimed at clients ranging “from merchant vessels to oil rigs to premium yachts,” Starlink Maritime is promising low-latency internet at up to 350 Mbps peak downlink rate. Another perk is that Starlink’s satellite internet gear is relatively easy to install. The company also touts the hardware’s ability to survive extremely harsh situations such as rocket engines, although that won’t be of much use to a majority of customers unless they happen to be a megalomaniac billionaire hellbent on taking over the world with a fleet of mind-control robots ruling the skies aboard rockets.
There are a few caveats though. Buyers don’t want to take their Starlink-ready luxury yacht to an area with lots of clouds, as the service requires “an unobstructed view of the sky.” For clients paying the hefty fee to install multiple Starlink Maritime units on their sea-faring rides, they will be glad to know that the entire Starlink Maritime fleet can be managed from a single dashboard with an assurance of data security, thanks to end-to-end encryption. The company has also released a coverage map, which covers almost the entire U.S. shoreline, nearly a third of Latin America, a majority of Europe, and about two-thirds of the Australian coastline. However, by Q4 2022, the coverage will move far beyond the shores and will cover the entire sea area spanning across the U.S., Europe, and Asia alongside the tropic lines. By Q1 2023, Starlink Maritime will go global, complete with expanded inland coverage.