How SpaceX and Starlink is Expanding Market Share through Enterprise Customers

SpaceX, the company owned by Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has launched some 2,000 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit (LEO) since 2019. Whilst, the network is has yet to be fully deployed, Space X, offers broadband internet service to thousands of customers, in a handful of countries, for $110 a month using a $599 terminal dish, about the size of a pizza box. 

Since 2018, SpaceX has launched nearly 1,800 Starlink satellites out of the roughly 4,400 it needs to provide global coverage of broadband internet, primarily for rural homes where fiber connections aren’t available.

What about Competition?

Competition is fierce between Musk’s Starlink network and the growing industry of LEO satellite internet providers. Competitors include Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, which planned 3,000 satellites, and the UK’s OneWeb, which has launched 182 satellites of roughly 640 planned. All of those satellites will be in low-Earth orbit, a domain below the more distant geostationary orbits of larger internet satellites that currently provide internet services to commercial aircraft.

Starlink competitive advantage?

To expand beyond the consumer segment, SpaceX has sought regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to operate Starlink on airplanes and shipping vessels and had previously tested the internet network on a handful of Gulfstream jets, as well as military aircraft.

The materialize this land and expand strategy, SpaceX in April, signed its first deal with an air carrier to provide in-flight wireless internet using the Starlink satellite network. This is one of the key prongs in SpaceX's strategy to scoop up enterprise customers beyond consumers and households in rural areas of the globe with little to no internet access.

Is Startlink winning over competition?

The deal is with semi-private jet service JSX and involves equipping 100 airplanes with Starlink terminals, with the first Starlink-connected plane taking flight by year's end. The Starlink service on JSX planes will come at no charge to JSX customers, the jet service said in its statement, adding it will "not require logging in or other complexities associated with legacy systems."

A Starlink executive said in 2021 that SpaceX was talking to airlines about offering in-flight Wi-Fi but didn't reveal the companies involved. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian recently told The Wall Street Journal that his airline had held talks with Starlink and had tested out the technology.

Is Starlink reliable, as a provider?

SpaceX had initially notified Starlink beta test subscribers that they should expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps, with intermittent outages. But some users are hitting much higher speeds.

A list compiled by Reddit's Starlink community shows the fastest download speed so far was 209.17 Mbps, recorded in New York and another person in Utah recorded in December their speed test showing 215 Mbps.

Starlink has even reached speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds and snow. Users have been impressed with the terminal heating up enough to melt any snow or frost on top of it.

As Starlink rollout ramps up around the world, SpaceX has ramped to nearly 10,000 employees. In May 2020, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's chief operating officer, said the company had around 8,000 staff. So it's a safe bet that Starlink is setting itself up for success.