Starlink to offer phone network as part of space internet service

Elon Musk’s Starlink space internet service could be expanded into a dedicated phone service, as well as a more affordable internet service for low-income customers.

This could include providing minutes of use for local services, access to emergency services, and “toll limitation services to low-income consumers”.

Voice services will be offered “on a standalone basis at rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates”, and that it has already “successfully test[ed a] standalone voice service over the Starlink network”.

SpaceX also states that the service will “offer voice rate plans in the Service Areas that include local calling at no additional charge and will comply with any and all minimum local usage requirements adopted by the FCC or states with jurisdiction over Starlink Services’ standalone voice service.”

Finally, SpaceX also says that Starlink’s services will be able to function without an external power source in emergency situations and can “reroute traffic around damaged facilities, and will be able to manage traffic spikes resulting from emergency situations”.

“At the user level, Starlink Services will offer a 24-hour battery back-up option for user equipment that will provide the ability to make phone calls in the event of a power outage”, the filing continues, much like other VoIP providers.

For low-income customers, who are on what the FCC calls Lifeline programs, Starlink says that the program currently has “no Lifeline customers because only carriers designated as an ETC [eligible telecommunications carriers] can participate in the Lifeline program”.

Once it has been designated as such it would “provide Lifeline to qualifying low-income consumers and publicize the availability of Lifeline service in a manner reasonably designed to reach those likely to qualify for the service.”

As Ars Technica notes, Lifeline currently provides a $9.25 subsidy per month for households to get broadband, and a $5.25 subsidy for phone service.

Starlink is currently priced at $99 per month, on top of a $499 purchase of a wi-fi terminal, the subsidy would not be enough to make the service affordable and as such SpaceX would have to offer a lower-income plan.

The company claims that it has over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad, who are receiving 100/20 megabits per second throughput with a latency below 31 milliseconds.

It recently began accepting pre-orders for the internet service, to be fulfilled on a “first-come, first-served basis”, although orders will not be shipped until mid to late 2021 in some instances and 2022 in others.

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