SpaceX Wins FCC Approval for 1 Million Starlink Satellite Terminals

The receiving terminals will be ground-based and working with the Starlink satellite constellation.
Fabienne Lang

After months of waiting, SpaceX received approval last week from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy 1 million ground-based terminals for its Starlink satellite-broadband constellation. 

The FCC's approval is for "a blanket license for the operation of up to 1,000,000 fixed earth stations that will communicate with [SpaceX's] non-geostationary orbit satellite system," and lasts 15 years.


Global broadband with SpaceX

SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, explained in plain terms that the terminals "look like a UFO on a stick" and that they have actuators that point them in the right direction.

"It's very important that you don't need a specialist to install it," Musk said. "The goal is that... there's just two instructions, and they can be done in either order: point at sky, plug in."

Sounds nice and simple. 

One million terminals are a great start, however, it must be pointed out that it wouldn't cover many homes in the U.S. for instance. That said, SpaceX isn't looking to cover huge parts of the country, rather some harder to reach sections. As Musk pointed out "3 or 4 percent hardest-to-reach customers for telcos" and "people who simply have no connectivity right now, or the connectivity is really bad."

Starlink satellites

SpaceX already has the FCC's approval to launch 11,943 Starlink broadband satellites into low-orbit. Starlink's services are due to be available to the public as early as this year in parts of the U.S., but it will still require a number of years to launch all of the company's satellites. 

If all goes according to plan and hard-to-reach sections of the nation do receive good broadband thanks to SpaceX's Starlink mission, the global impact could ultimately be huge. As of 2018, only around 58% of households around the world have access to Internet service according to a UN report.

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