Starlink, the Elon Musk-backed satellite internet service that will turn up in South Africa any day now, will offer its users a choice. There’s the original Dishy McFlatface satellite base station, which looks like a DStv dish on a tripod. Then there’s the new thing — a smaller rectangular design.
Starlink’s new star
Starlink’s original dish, used by those participating in the company’s beta, is fairly conventional in terms of design. This new one, though, looks like it’s designed to be delivered by a Cybertruck. It’s a strange design for a satellite receiver, but it’s got a purpose.
It’s smaller, purely in terms of dimensions, and at 4.2kg it’s a fair bit lighter than the original design’s 7.3 kilo weight. It’s also got 3×3 MU-MIMO support, compared to the 2×2 support the round version of Dishy features. Other specs are largely the same — both are IP45 rated, have the same operating temperature range and wireless band support. The only other difference is that those who need an Ethernet port will have to buy an adaptor from Starlink for the new version.
And then there’s the matter of cost. No, it’s not cheaper for users, who will still pay at least R7,700 for the dish. But it is cheaper for the company to manufacture them. A Starlink base station originally cost $3,000 (R45,000) to make, according to the company. That amount was supposed to be reduced to $1,300 (R20,000). This version of Dishy McFlatface is cheaper for Starlink to manufacture but the company’s likely still selling them at a loss — at least for now.
If you want one, you’re first going to have to wait for the service to launch in SA. Even then, it might be a while. According to the company’s website, “…the rectangular Starlink is currently available for all new orders fulfilled in the United States.” The chip shortage also offers a little pain — orders are currently delayed because some of the internals are harder to come by than they should be.