Elon Musk says Starlink investment could cost up to $30bn

30 Jun 2021

Image: © Sundry Photography/Stock.adobe.com

SpaceX is prepared to make a huge investment in its satellite broadband venture.

The Starlink service being rolled out by SpaceX could require as much as $30bn in investment.

That’s according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who gave a talk yesterday (29 June) at the telecom industry’s Mobile World Congress, which is taking place in Barcelona.

He said that investment in the network would be between $5bn and $10bn before achieving positive cash flow, and that long-term investment could be between $20bn and $30bn.

Starlink is a global network of low-orbit satellites that are designed to offer high-speed, low-latency broadband for anyone in the world. This could particularly help those in remote areas that lack the ground infrastructure for current internet services.

In Ireland, the system has been trialled by residents in west Cork and Kerry.

Musk said that the service currently has 69,420 users but is expected to reach half a million users over the next year.

New users currently pay around $500 for a Starlink beta kit, which is only half the cost of manufacturing the terminal. Musk said reducing these costs would be instrumental to a profitable service.

He also stated that the project has entered into two partnerships with “major” country telecoms companies, but did not provide specific names.

The insights from Musk come after Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer at SpaceX, provided a brief glimpse of the coming months for the company.

At a National Space Society event last week, Shotwell described SpaceX’s Starship programme as the company’s most exciting development from a “visionary space perspective”. But for many, she added that the Starlink programme is the most exciting practical development.

The Starship programme involves SpaceX’s reuseable space transportation system, which Shotwell said would soon “take people to other planets, the moon, and Mars”.

She cautiously named July as the first orbital launch for Starship. “We’re hoping we will make it, but we all know that this is difficult.”

Musk echoed this sentiment at the Barcelona conference, but was more cautious in his estimates, stating the launch would take place some time over the next few months.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news