TL;DR: After a year of beta testing, SpaceX believes it has enough positive feedback for a proper launch of its Starlink satellite internet service. The company may drop the 'beta' moniker as soon as next month, but no changes to pricing have been announced yet.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is confident the Starlink satellite internet service will be going live as soon as next month. This would be two months later than originally planned, and calls into question the company's ability to acquire more than 500,000 users in its first year since launch.
Startlink has been offered to public beta testers for almost a year now, with most users reporting positive first impressions about the service. In terms of cost, the terminal hardware bundle (Starlink dish + Wi-Fi router) will set you back $499, and the monthly fee is $99. The company has been trying to shave as much as possible from the cost of the terminal, but a larger problem has been making these terminals fast enough to meet demand, and building a ruggedized version that can survive harsh environments.
Recently, a large number of pre-orders have seen fulfillment date estimates ranging from 2022 to 2023. Last month, SpaceX said it had shipped more than 100,000 Starlink terminals to users in over 14 countries, but there's still a backlog of over 400,000 pre-orders that have yet to be fulfilled.
The Starlink service is enabled by a growing constellation of 1,600+ satellites in low-Earth orbit that beam down Internet connectivity to remote areas. SpaceX has plans to have anywhere between 12,000 and 42,000 satellites up in the coming years, but has recently hit a snag while adding laser crosslinks to a batch that was supposed to be launched this summer.
These crosslinks allow satellites to communicate with each other and transfer data around, but the company hopes to eventually use them to beam Internet connectivity down in areas where ground stations cannot be built.
As with all things promised by Elon Musk, it's possible we'll see additional delays. In related news, SpaceX's first all-civilian spaceflight was a success -- the Inspiration4 crew arrived safely back to Earth on Saturday after three days in orbit at an altitude of 590 kilometers above the Earth's surface.