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Elon Musk’s satellite internet company Starlink is already approaching broadband speeds. Actually, Starlink Premium, a new higher-end tier, surpasses some of the best broad speeds available in the U.S., albeit, at an absurdly high price.
While it’s still early on, Starlink is already having an impact on people living in rural parts of the world. In our Starlink review, we were thoroughly impressed by the new satellite internet service but there are still lots of questions and variables that need to be taken into account.
SpaceX has also launched Starlink RV which is a service meant for users on-the-go or who live in campers. While you can skip the line and get Starlink’s RV plan instantly, there is a downside though as network services are de-prioritized for Starlink RV compared to other Starlink products – which means a degraded service and slower speeds.
So far, SpaceX has launched over 3,000 Starlink satellites with new launches scheduled quite frequently. These new satellites will continue to help cover the continental U.S., Canada and the U.K. At the same time, NASA and SpaceX have come to an information-sharing agreement to help avoid orbital collisions.
Pre-orders (opens in new tab) are currently underway for this new satellite internet service, which promises to deliver broadband speeds of up to 300 Mbps to anyone in the world regardless of where they are. Whether it be a rural farm in Iowa or a remote village in Canada, customers are reporting greatly improved internet speeds with Starlink.
According to a report from Ookla, median download speeds for Starlink dramatically increased between the first quarter of 2021 and 2022 in both the U.S. and Canada. The service’s speeds saw a 38 percent increase in the U.S. and in Canada, speeds increased by nearly 58 percent in the same time period. In the U.S., Starlink users can expect to get speeds around 90.55 Mbps while Canadian users should see speeds close to 97.40 Mbps.
SpaceX is continuing to launch more satellites and service is already reaching more parts of the continental U.S., Canada and parts of Europe. We now have an even better indication of how rollout is going, thanks to a new coverage map.
But what is Starlink? Below you’ll find a rundown of this project that aims to get everyone in the world connected to high speed internet.
Latest Starlink news (updated Jan 13)
- SpaceX is preparing to launch in South Korea according to registration papers (opens in new tab) filed by the company with the country’s regulatory authorities
- SpaceX has delayed Starlink’s controversial data cap until February 2023
- SpaceX has announced that it will add a 1 TB monthly data cap to Starlink during peak hours (7AM-11PM) beginning in December. Customers that go over this limit will see their connection throttled to Basic Access or will need to pay extra for Priority Access data.
- SpaceX has released a new Flat High Performance dish for RVs that lets them stay connected to its satellite internet service while moving
- Elon Musk has revealed that SpaceX had talks with Apple to bring Starlink connectivity to iPhone
Starlink release date
Starlink officially exited beta last year but it’s currently only available in select regions and countries. However, the company plans to make its satellite internet service available worldwide by the end of this year.
As of right now, Starlink is available in the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand. According to Starlink’s pre order agreement though, its satellite internet service will also launch in Italy, Poland, Spain and Chile but no release date has been set yet.
Back in May of this year, Starlink completed its first deployment in Asia by launching in the Philippines. After making preorders available in India in October, 2021, the company’s Sanjay Bhargava revealed that the Indian government had halted pre orders until SpaceX received the regulatory approval in the country.
While it’s still difficult to get Starlink satellite internet coverage at the moment, a filing with the FCC (opens in new tab) in May of this year revealed that the service already has over 400,000 subscribers. If you live in an area that’s currently unsupported, you can still order Starlink (opens in new tab) on the company’s website to hold your place in line. Once the service expands to more areas in 2023, you’ll receive a notification that your Starlink is ready to ship.
Even if you have no plans to use Starlink as your home internet provider, you will soon be able to use the service’s satellites with your smartphone. T-Mobile President and CEO Mike Sievert announced back in August (opens in new tab) that the mobile carrier would begin working together with SpaceX on a plan to provide its customers with text coverage everywhere in the continental U.S. Likewise, Elon Musk revealed in a post on Twitter (opens in new tab) that he had discussions with Apple about using Starlink’s satellite service on the iPhone. This makes a lot of sense, especially now that the iPhone 14 includes a new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature.
Starlink availability and coverage
(Image credit: Satellitemap.space)
Although Starlink initially prioritized “high latitudes” or areas in the northern part of the Earth like Canada and the upper parts of the United States, that seems to have changed. According to a few coverage maps (opens in new tab) available online, Starlink coverage now seems to be readily available in the lower hemisphere of the Earth as well. In a tweet (opens in new tab) from back in 2020, Musk explained that Starlink would arrive in cities like Seattle first and then “get progressively closer to the equator”.
According to BroadbandNow (opens in new tab), Starlink currently has over 400,000 subscribers and Space X has launched a total of 2,700 LEO satellites into orbit. However, 750,000 pre orders have been submitted to Space X for Starlink satellite internet and the company is working to fulfill them all by the end of the year.
In the U.S., Starlink is currently available in 32 states including Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Texas and others which have a max download speed of 350 Mbps. In these states, big cities with Starlink coverage include New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, Seattle and El Paso.
Starlink preorders currently cost $99 a month. But the service will require an up-front hardware fee of $499. That includes the small satellite dish that can be set up at a home or business, as well as a router and power supply. There’s also a shipping and handling fee of $50.
For anyone wanting to preorder, all it requires is a refundable $99 deposit. Order fulfillment can take up to six months or more.
Starlink’s Home service now costs $110 per month for 100-200 Mbps, its Business plans costs $500 per month for up to 350 Mbps and Starlink RV costs $135 for the internet service but speeds vary depending on your location. The dish itself costs $599.
To get top speeds, it’s a good idea to pair Starlink with one of the best Wi-Fi routers.
Elon Musk is never shy when it comes to launching faster models at high prices, and Starlink Premium is no different. Starlink Premium is a $500 monthly internet tier that offers speeds of up to 500 Mbps. It will also require a new $2,500 antenna and a $500 deposit for those wanting orders as quickly as possible. This tier is designed for, “small offices, storefronts, and super users across the globe,” or what SpaceX calls “high demand users.”
Starlink Premium customers in the mid-west and southern U.S. can expect their shipments to arrive in 2023 if they made their order in 2023. However, there is immediate availability in most other U.S. states.
What Starlink users are saying
The response to Starlink’s internet service has been overwhelmingly positive from the few customers receiving service. Head on over to the Starlink subreddit (opens in new tab), and you’ll find users posting images of their new satellites, with accompanying speed tests. In Missouri (opens in new tab), users are reporting download speeds of 150 Mbps. Another user in Idaho uploaded 72 hours worth of test results, and found speeds to be an average of 71 Mbps.
A user in the U.K. saw a massive leap in internet speed after installing Starlink. Aaron Wilkes from Kent, went from 1 Mbps to 175 Mbps. While Wilkes is paying more for Starlink, he feels the price is worth it (opens in new tab).
“The ability to be able to download content so quickly compared to our standard BT line is amazing,” said Wilkes in an interview with the PA news agency.
Mega popular YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips (opens in new tab) was also able to procure a Starlink satellite system. They were able to stream four 4K videos at once and successfully played through a game of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with little issue.
And director Jesse Senko, who lives in a rural Ontario, Canada, detailed how Starlink massively upgraded his workflow in the video below.
Starlink specs and IPO
Unlike other satellite internet providers, Starlink’s LEO satellites promise to offer low-latency broadband speeds regardless of where you are. While Starlink was first boasting speeds of 1 Gbps, it’s since upped that target to 10 Gbps (opens in new tab). To put that into context, users would be able to download a 4K movie in less than 30 seconds. Starlink would be a major boon for people living in rural parts of the world.
Speed test analysis by Ookla shows Starlink seeing major gains in speed in the past few months. Median download speed has jumped from 65.72 Mbps to 97 Mbps. Actually, Starlink is creeping up on average median broadband speeds of 115.22 Mbps. The second leg (opens in new tab) of the Starlink network should see even faster speeds,
Latency on Starlink is surprisingly low considering its satellite internet. Early beta tests show that Starlink averages 34 milliseconds (opens in new tab). While that may not be as fast as fiber, which can get as low as 17ms (opens in new tab), any latency under 40ms is solid for most applications. Certain types of online games, most notably shooters and fighting games, benefit most from low latency. But sports games or MOBAs will work well on Starlink. Musk has admitted (opens in new tab) as such, aiming to bring pings down below 20ms.
It goes without saying, Starlink absolutely destroys other satellite internet companies like HughesNet and Viasat. Both offer download speeds at a fifth of Starlink with latency that’s ten times higher.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that OneWeb (opens in new tab) (half-owned by the UK government), Amazon’s Project Kuiper (opens in new tab), Boeing (opens in new tab), Telesat (opens in new tab), and the Russian (opens in new tab) and Chinese (opens in new tab) governments are all planning satellite internet constellations.
Still, getting a project of this magnitude literally off the ground and into profitability is a monumental task. While the Russian and Chinese governments can bear the brunt of the cost, companies like Starlink and Amazon take on significant risk. Past satellite internet constellations have gone bankrupt.
There’s also a lot of interest in when a Starlink IPO would go live. In a tweet, Musk replied that an IPO is planned, but it would come after SpaceX has a more predictable cashflow. For Musk and Starlink, the goal right now is not to go bankrupt.
Starlink in your Tesla?
It seems that SpaceX has made a request with the Federal Communications Commission to bring Starlink satellite internet service to jets and ships. In a letter to the FCC by SpaceX director of satellite policy, as acquired by CNBC (opens in new tab), David Goldman states, “This application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide.”
The company would handle vehicle installation through “qualified installers” and cited the need for quality internet “while on the move.”
SpaceX has also made a second filing (opens in new tab) with the FCC regarding a more rugged satellite dish, one that can handle moving conditions or more extreme climates. Already, Starlink satellites are shutting down in extreme heat, forcing users to water their “Dishys” like they would flowers.
There is the issue of internet access varying between countries. Some countries, like China, have a strictly controlled internet infrastructure. Sites that might be okay to view in the U.S. likely would not be in China. But this is satellite internet, meaning it can be accessed from anywhere. It seems that Starlink will default to the rules of the country you’re in, “whichever is more constraining.”
This is all academic right now, though. Because of the size of the Starlink satellite terminal, at the moment it will not be possible on cars. Elon Musk stated so in a tweet.
Given that broadband companies lack rivals in many cases, Starlink and other satellite internet constellations are a welcome injection of competition. More important, the service enables regions to get connected at broadband speeds where there were no options previously.
For example, the Hoh Tribe, a Native American tribe located in Western Washington state along the Pacific coast, said Starlink was like being “catapulted into the 21st century.” Per the Newsweek (opens in new tab) article, the Hoh Tribe tweeted that faster internet speeds helped with remote learning and access to healthcare.
Starlink’s wireless nature allows it to enter any part of the world, subverting the need for cables. By doing so, rural areas that remain neglected can now be connected at broadband speeds. The cost of $99 is still too high for many parts of the globe, but given that Starlink will see competition from other companies, prices will likely drop over time.
Elon Musk hopes to complete the Starlink internet constellation sometime in 2022.
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