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Details on SpaceX Starlink beta emerge along with photos of user terminals

2020-07-24 / Number of views:818

As SpaceX readies beta-testing for its Starlink broadband service, Internet users have dug into the Starlink website and found new details on the upcoming beta tests and images of the user terminals that will be installed outside customers‘ homes.

Reddit users yesterday said they did some data mining of the Starlink support website and main site, uncovering an FAQ about the beta trials, terms of service, and images of the satellite dish from different angles.

Here are the photos:

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter last night that the latest version of the dish (also called a user terminal) looks slightly different than what is seen in the photos. "Small note: latch on post near base is gone & powered Ethernet wire is less obtrusive in production version," Musk wrote.

Musk has previously described the terminal as a "UFO on a stick." SpaceX received Federal Communications Commission approval to deploy 1 million of them. The terminal‘s size is 0.48 meters (almost 19 inches), according to an FCC filing.

Beta tests

SpaceX recently updated the Starlink website with a form you can fill out to "get updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area." Public beta tests are expected to begin in the fall.

The Starlink FAQ posted on Reddit says that "Starlink Beta will begin in the Northern United States and lower [i.e. southern] Canada, with those living in rural and/or remote communities in the Washington state area. Access to the Starlink Beta program will be driven by the user‘s location as well as the number of users in nearby areas."

Describing the current satellite network and the need for beta testers to have a clear view of the sky from their homes, the FAQ says, "The Starlink system is currently made up of nearly 600 satellites orbiting the Earth that can provide Internet service in a very specific range—between 44 and 52 degrees north latitude. Your Starlink dish requires a clear view of the Northern sky in order to communicate with the Starlink satellites. Without the clear view, the Starlink dish cannot make a good connection and your service will be extremely poor."

In another tweet yesterday, Musk noted that the "Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle," eliminating the need for an expert installer. The terminal can be placed "in garden, on roof, table, pretty much anywhere, so long as it has a wide view of the sky," Musk wrote. He also wrote that once service is available, it "will take less than a minute to order on"

Beta testers are asked to "dedicate an average of 30 minutes to 1 hour per day testing the Starlink Services and providing feedback on a periodic basis," according to the terms of service. "Feedback requests from SpaceX will come in the form of surveys, phone calls, emails, and other means. Not participating can result in termination of your Beta Program participation and you must return your Starlink Kit." Beta testers will not be allowed to share anything about their use of the service publicly.

Router approved by FCC

Besides the user terminals that receive signals from space, Starlink customers will need a router to supply Wi-Fi in their homes. SpaceX this week got FCC approval for its Starlink router, but photos of the router are not yet public because of a confidentiality request.

An FCC filing says the router is dual-band, supporting 2.4GHz and 5GHz transmissions. It supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard with data-transfer rates of up to 866.7Mbps, in addition to older standards including 802.11b, 802.11a/g, and 802.11n.

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