SpaceX’s Starlink division has invited some potential users to try a “Global Roaming” service for $200 a month, saying the new plan “allows your Starlink to connect from almost anywhere on land in the world.”
“Global Roaming makes use of Starlink’s inter-satellite links (aka space lasers) to provide connectivity around the globe. As this is a new technology, you can expect Starlink’s typical high-speed, low-latency service intermixed with brief periods of poor connectivity, or none at all. However this will improve dramatically over time,” said an email from Starlink shared on Reddit. Average Starlink speeds have dropped as more users sign up for the satellite service, speed-test data shows.
It appears that at least some of the Global Roaming invitations were sent to people who are still on the waiting list for Starlink’s regular home Internet service. “Participating in Global Roaming will not impact your place in line for Residential service,” the Starlink email said.
Global Roaming requires a $599 upfront payment for the Starlink hardware kit in addition to the $200 monthly price. Users who aren’t satisfied with Global Roaming “can return for a full refund of the hardware within 30 days,” the email said. The standard residential Starlink service costs $110 a month and has the same hardware cost of $599.
Invites sent to people outside Starlink service areas
PCMag reported that “SpaceX sent the message to at least two people who live in countries where Starlink isn’t available,” including Greenland. That seems to suggest SpaceX may use the roaming service to get Starlink into countries where governments haven’t approved it.
But the invitation email says the roaming service is contingent on regulatory approval and suggests it should be used only in “authorized” areas:
At this time, payment for Global Roaming is only available in United States Dollars. If you are based outside of the US, you will also be responsible for acting as the Importer of Record for the Starlink Kit, which may include the payment of customs duties and import taxes, if required. Global Roaming services are contingent on regulatory approvals. Find a list of authorized territories on the Starlink map.
The $200-per-month price took some users by surprise. “It’s a great idea and is exactly what I want, but $200 a month is going to be way too expensive for most travelers I know,” one person wrote on the Starlink subreddit.
Starlink’s other portability options
Starlink already offers an RV service for $135 a month “with a one-time cost of $599 for portable hardware or $2,500 for in-motion hardware.” But Starlink for RVs is limited to the user’s continent and often receives slower speeds than the standard plan. Customers who use Starlink for RVs in a foreign country for over two months are required to move their account to the new location or buy an additional Starlink.
Starlink also lets residential users pay an extra monthly fee of $25 for portability, allowing use at “secondary locations” within the user’s continent. The Starlink portability and RV options both have lower service levels than standard Starlink plans.
“Starlink for RVs and Portable users are served best effort and can expect lower service levels than fixed users, particularly in areas marked as ‘Low Capacity’ on the coverage map. Service degradation will be most extreme in ‘Low Capacity’ areas during peak hours,” according to SpaceX’s support FAQ for the RV and Portability services.
Starlink’s terms of service say portability users “are solely responsible for (a) understanding and complying with all applicable laws and regulations associated with your use of Portability Services and the Kit; and (b) stopping use of the Portability Services or Kit if you are in an unsupported geographic location.”
Moreover, users of the existing portability option who stay in a secondary location “for an extended period of time… may experience further performance degradation to accommodate priority users at their registered Service addresses.” SpaceX hasn’t posted a support FAQ for the Global Roaming service yet, but it would presumably have fewer restrictions than Starlink’s existing portability options.