A brand new, ultra-portable Starlink is set to debut later this year, according to Elon Musk. In a recent speech, covering several SpaceX topics, Musk talked about Starlink, and the new user terminals launching this year. One of the devices, Starlink’s Gen 3 “Standard” dish, has already been launched in the US. The other device, which Musk referred to as Starlink “Mini”, will be released sometime later this year.
“We will be introducing the Starlink Mini later this year, which can fit in a backpack.”Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX/Starlink
The speech, which you can view in this SpaceX post, covered several exciting Starlink developments and goals. According to Musk, Starlink should be available to around half the world’s population by the end of 2024. Musk reiterated Starlink’s mission of providing high speed, low latency broadband internet to rural and underserved areas, and emphasized how devices like the Starlink Mini, and their new ground station gateways, help to advance that mission.
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Starlink Mini is small enough to fit in a backpack
Musk’s claim that the new Starlink Mini dish will fit in a backpack is supported by recent FCC filings by Starlink. In one filing, Starlink lists the dimensions of the antenna to be about 10″ x 12″, or roughly the size of a laptop.
The Starlink Mini will be about half the size of the current Starlink Standard dish. The smaller form factor would be a welcome feature for hikers, campers, or anyone else needing an ultra-portable Starlink dish. Musk didn’t offer many specifics beyond how small the Mini would be.
Price and other details remain unknown
Beyond the dimensions of the new Mini dish, Musk didn’t give any other specific details. The cost of the Starlink Mini dish will be at the top of most peoples concerns. The new Mini dish should cost the same or less than the current Standard hardware. It would be hard to imagine Starlink releasing a smaller, weaker antenna for a higher price.
Half the size, half the power?
Another detail contained in the FCC filings for the Mini dish is the power output of the phased array antenna. The Mini dish, due to its smaller size, is a less capable antenna overall. Don’t expect to get the fastest internet speeds with the Mini dish. What’s more important for portable use cases is the power draw of the Mini system, which should be significantly less than the current hardware.
The Gen 3 Starlink Standard dish uses 75-100 watts on average. I expect the Starlink Mini dish to use a lot less, maybe around 30-50 watts. Customers who use batteries or solar for electricity will appreciate the lower power requirements of the Mini.
Although we don’t have any details at this time, many Starlink customers are hoping for a DC power supply option for the new Mini dish. All current Starlink units require AC power from a wall outlet or an inverter. If the Starlink Mini is targeted towards nomads and travelers, it makes sense to offer some kind of DC power adapter accessory, so that the Mini dish could run off a battery, solar, or a vehicle.
Starlink Mini might compete with Amazon’s portable dish
2024 will be an exciting year for satellite internet, and not only because Starlink plans to launch the Mini dish. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is set to ramp up production of their satellites, and has launches scheduled throughout the year. In recent updates shared on their blog, Amazon says they hope to start offering service by the end of the year.
In one of the updates, Amazon shares some details on the Project Kuiper user terminals. Like Starlink, Project Kuiper plans to offer a variety of hardware options, from a powerful enterprise dish, to a home internet dish, all the way down to a portable mini dish. Starlink Mini will likely be competing directly against Project Kuiper’s mini dish when it is launched later this year.
My Starlink Mini feature wishlist
I’ve been thinking about the Starlink Mini a lot, since I first saw the FCC filings last year. It will be a game changer for portable internet. Although the current Starlink dishes can be used in portable situations, they are kind of big and awkward to transport. Not to mention more difficult to power, due to the lack of a DC power adapter.
Here is a list of features that I hope Starlink implements for the new Mini dish:
- DC power option
- Non-actuated design (no motors or mast)
- Foldable tripod mount
- Mounting accessories (vehicle roof mount, magnet mount, etc)
I’m curious to know what you think about the Starlink Mini, and what features you think it should have. Personally, I’m excited for another form factor to join the lineup. Starlink offers the large, Flat High Performance dish for enterprise customers and power users. Then you have the Standard and Standard Actuated dishes, that work for a variety of applications. A Mini is just what Starlink needs to fill out their product lineup, and give customers a complete set of hardware options.