SpaceX currently has around 4,000 satellites in orbit, with plans to launch 42,000 in total. To date, more than 50 countries are known to have authorised Starlink to offer fixed broadband connectivity.

It has more than 1,500 satellites aloft and is operating in about a dozen countries, growing every month. Musk forecast total customer numbers would reach half a million over the next 12 months, from 69,000 now.

In 2022 alone, Starlink’s subscriber count rose from 145,000 to over one million. One aspect is the fact that Starlink was launched in 20+ markets that year.

Another reason is its vastly expanding satellite constellation and ground station network, thus enabling Starlink to service even more users in its key markets (e.g., US, Canada, or Australia).

Starlink would need a few million subscribers paying about $99 a month each to recoup a $5 billion investment in a year’s time, said analyst Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates.

A $30 billion investment over a decade would not require a dramatic rise in subscribers, but to achieve Musk’s 2020 projection of roughly $30 billion revenue a year would require tens of millions of subscribers, he said.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is the cost of maintaining its constellation. Starlink’s satellites will need to be replaced every 5 to 6 years, with existing ones burning up almost completely when re-entering earth’s atmosphere.

Data indicates that each Starlink satellite costs around $300,000 to produce, on top of $15 million for each Falcon 9 launch. A Falcon 9 normally transports 50 satellites, thus costing SpaceX around $30 million ($15 million + ($300k * 50 satellites)).

Additionally, Starlink has also donated a few thousand dishes to help Ukraine, which supposedly led to monthly losses of more than $20 million.

USAID agreed to purchase closer to 1,500 standard Starlink terminals for $1,500 apiece and to pay an additional $800,000 for transportation costs, documents show, adding up to over $3 million in taxpayer dollars paid to SpaceX for the equipment sent to Ukraine.

Musk said he was talking to possible partners as a number of countries require operators to provide rural coverage as conditions of their 5G licences.

He also said if telecom operators have cellular stations in remote regions, they can use Starlink to allow them to connect to core networks.