The way we connect to wireless internet could soon be changing.
Starlink, SpaceX’s network of low Earth orbit satellites, is designed to provide high-speed internet connections to users anywhere on Earth at affordable rates. The project aims to improve access to high-speed internet connections, particularly to those living in rural areas and other underserved populations.
The SpaceX website describes StarLink as a game-changer, calling it “the world’s most advanced broadband internet system.” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has promised Starlink internet service will soon roll out nationwide. He has said Starlink is not intended to pose a threat to telecommunications and cable providers of broadband internet access. Rather, space-based broadband is designed to offer greater range, access, and connection quality in communities around the world.
Ari Stiegler, an early investor in SpaceX and Starlink, is bullish about the potential of the total addressable market for Starlink—and for a good reason.
Currently, approximately 1,600 Starlink satellites are in orbit, serving more than 100,000 users across the globe. These installations are more than 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency rates or the time it takes to send data from one point to the next. This is a significant benefit to wireless internet customers, particularly those in regions where geographic or infrastructural constraints limit access to high-quality connections.
Stiegler’s optimism about the future of Starlink isn’t predicated just on a feeling, he said, but also on robust data and modeling that suggest the constellation of satellites could deliver significant social and financial returns for decades.
“When analyzing the total addressable market of Starlink, one has to consider that there will be two market segments—a small number of high-paying customers and a large number of lower-paying customers,” Stiegler said.
He pointed to information gathered by Sam Korus, an analyst at global asset manager ARK Investment Management, showing addressable annual revenues based on acceptable monthly broadband costs. At a monthly cost of $10-$20, with approximately 30 million users, Starlink has an addressable annual revenue of $6 billion. Similarly, there is an addressable annual revenue of $6 billion when approximately 5 million users are paying at a monthly cost of $75-$100. Either way, Stiegler says the model predicts profits across both user paradigms.
“The data by ARK Investment Management, which assumes 12,000 satellites in orbit, is encouraging,” Stiegler said. “SpaceX is seeking to launch 42,000 satellites longer-term, and it’s important to consider the key inputs for the total addressable market model, which are: the number of satellites in the constellation, the bandwidth for each satellite, the oversubscription ratio, the acceptable cost of broadband and the minimum bandwidth in megabits per second Starlink will provide.”
“Providing both supply-side and demand-side models are equally imperative to understanding Starlink’s total addressable market potential,” Stiegler said. “To calculate the input regarding the number of satellites in a constellation, one makes the assumption that the satellite constellation is distributed evenly, and to get a sense of the bandwidth available to each country, you multiply the number of satellites by the bandwidth per satellite.”
In terms of the acceptable cost of broadband, another key input, “ARK projects that Starlink would be competitive in the mass market when people of any given country are willing to pay 2% of monthly GDP for broadband and mobile data,” Stiegler said.
“One thing that is important to keep in mind is that in developing countries, few people are willing to pay exorbitant prices for broadband Internet access,” Stiegler added.
Stiegler also explained that oversubscription–or the concept that not all of Starlink’s users will be online and drawing broadband at the same time–must also be factored into this model.
“When calculating the number of customers per country, one divides the annual bandwidth by the mean download speed and multiplies it by the oversubscription ratio,” Stiegler said.
As the founder of Los Angeles-based venture capital fund Flux Capital, Stiegler is focused on corporate leaders in winner-take-all markets, and he manages investments in several space transportation companies, including SpaceX.
Flight prices are expected to climb by a "high single-digit percent," according to airline CEO Michael O'Leary. Lower fares, he...Read more