SpaceX Has 4,000 Starlink Satellites in Orbit; Cell Service Testing in 2023

Photo: Michael Sheetz

SpaceX is looking to begin testing Starlink’s satellite-to-cell service sometime this year, according to statements from the company’s Vice President of Enterprise Sales Jonathan Hofeller at the Satellite 2023 conference, reports CNBC’s @Michael Sheetz.

The statement came during a panel discussion regarding satellite-to-cell services, and Hofeller sat alongside ST Engineering iDirect CEO Don Claussen, Iridium CEO Matt Dresch and Lynk Global CEO Charles Miller.

In addition, Hofeller laid out SpaceX’s two-fold approach to cellular satellite internet service. First, the company needs to complement terrestrial towers with cell backhaul, and second, it’s seeking to go beyond complementing to offer high-speed, low-latency service, which low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellations are “best equipped to do.”

According to Hofeller, SpaceX currently has 4,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. When asked if Starlink had 2,500 or 3,000 satellites in orbit, Hofeller responded by holding up four fingers, indicating 4,000.

SpaceX is also building 6 next-gen Starlink satellites per day along with thousands of user terminals daily.

Miller pointed out that SpaceX believes cell services will “grow to be the biggest category in satellite,” adding that the mobile wireless sector is “a $1 trillion a year industry and the biggest unsolved problem in the industry is mobile hotspots.”

The news comes after SpaceX began seeking approval for Starlink cell service last year, following the company’s announcement of plans to offer a mobile option in 2023.

SpaceX is also planning to begin offering new Starlink terminal dish sizes, and the company has recently been experimenting with several new dish designs.