Starlink’s rapid iteration poses challenges for vendors

Starlink's rapid iteration poses challenges for vendors

TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX’s ability to quickly change and update services was an embarrassment for resellers, an executive for the low-Earth orbit (LEO) broadband constellation said Sept. 13.

“It’s been difficult because we’re very smart, and we have to be smarter about how we… [this] “It affects our distributors.”

He said it’s not uncommon for SpaceX to want to add a Starlink plan on Friday and then approve it on Monday.

“Well, this affects our partners and we are learning how to become better partners in that sense,” he said at a panel discussion at World Satellite Business Week in Paris.

However, he said Starlink’s ability to iterate quickly helps the company adapt to changing customer needs and plans.

Continuous improvement also allows Starlink to react to sudden events, such as natural disasters and other changes on a regional or global basis.

SpaceX can also change and modernize its Starlink services at a rapid pace because the vertically integrated company builds and launches satellites in-house.

After initially focusing solely on selling directly to consumers, Starlink opened sales channels about a year ago to help expand into markets including marine, energy and aviation.

“We do have channel conflict, which is one of the things we’re exploring and … figuring out how to deal with,” Hofeller said.

But Starlink “also sees customers looking for additional ancillary services like cybersecurity, installation, and customer support — on top of just high-capacity, raw, high-speed, low-latency,” and so the company is “looking to our partners to provide that to end customers.”

Starlink announced earlier today a partnership with SES, which operates a constellation of geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites, to provide shared service to cruise lines.

SES takes the lead in selling and managing the joint offering, including antenna installation.


Starlink now has more than 1.5 million customers worldwide, according to Hoeffler.

Although he did not discuss financial matters, he said the company no longer supports user antennas.

Starlink had revenue of $1.4 billion for 2022 compared to $222 million the previous year, the Wall Street Journal reported on September 13, citing documents.

According to the report, the company predicted in a 2015 investor presentation that Starlink would generate revenue of about $12 billion for 2022 and have 20 million subscribers by the end of that year, as well as $7 billion in operating profit.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that SpaceX made a profit of $55 million for the first three months of 2023, after a loss for 2022.

SpaceX did not comment on these reports.

Hofeller was asked during the conference about the failure rate of the more than 5,000 Starlink satellites launched so far — tracked by third-party spaceflight controller Jonathan McDowell — and he said he did not know that data.

Massimiliano Ladovas, chief technology officer at OneWeb, told conference participants that the company experienced four failures after deploying more than 630 satellites for its constellation.

“Obviously we would have liked not to have had these four failures, but given that it is a new field, that percentage is very low,” he said.

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