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SpaceX tops 6,300 Starlinks; IPO rumours

May 2, 2024

Later today [May 2nd], a SpaceX rocket will launch another 23 Starlink satellites from a Florida launch pad. It follows on from a Falcon 9 launch on April 28th which placed another batch of 23 Starlink broadband satellites into their transfer orbits. That launch took the total Starlinks launched to 6,304, of which 5,896 are still in orbit (because some have been de-orbited) and 5,822 are assessed as working in orbit according to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

McDowell added that he calculates that 135 satellites are in the process of being lowered and thus in “retirement”. This latest launch also included Starlink ‘direct-to-cell’ satellites.

However, there has been more speculation on whether Elon Musk would spin-off Starlink in an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The topic was much discussed during the Washington Satellite 2024 event but without any sort of confirmation. Kyle Wool, CEO at New York-based boutique bank Dominari Securities, who described the possibility of an IPO as the “major unicorn in the room”.

He added: “There’s a pretty high probability, in my opinion, that he’s going to spin out Starlink. And most people don’t even realise Starlink is actually 60 percent of the value of SpaceX. So Starlink alone, based on SpaceX, most recent round was $180 billion. Right. Starlink alone would be more than a $100 billion IPO. I think people might have an interest in that.”

SpaceX’s steady launch rate has resulted in improvements in reception for users in the more populated portions of the US (where there has something of a waiting list because of high demand) as well as service availability in new markets.

There’s also a report (from MBC’s Al Arabiya News) that the Yemeni government is about to license Starlink for deployment in the war-torn country. An official said the government was finalising the licence — although it could take another month to complete.

There are other recent additions (for example, Micronesia in the Pacific) which will add useful numbers to the existing 2.7 million claimed users and implying a growth of 500,000 gained in the four months to early April. There are still a huge number of untapped markets. For example, most of Africa is unserved, including potentially major markets such as South Africa, Botswana (starting in Q3), Tanzania (Q4) and Uganda (Q4).

Ghana, on April 25th, gave the green light to operate, but Cameroon – according to an April 29th report – has banned the import of Starlink equipment or its access (and alleging it is a security threat). Starlink has also been banned in other countries across Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, Mali and Sudan.

Other interesting markets – and in some cases where discussions are underway – include Turkey where service is imminent – although service introductions in Saudi Arabia (and the other Gulf states) are unclear. It is known that the massive potential of connectivity for India is close thanks to positive news from India’s government. Bangladesh is expected to start service in 2025 while Pakistan still awaits regulatory approval. Indonesia will commence this year while Cambodia will start in 2025.

Categories: Blogs, Broadband, Inside Satellite, IPO, Satellite

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