The internet has become a necessity rather than just a luxury in recent times, but not everyone is fortunate enough to get a stable and high-speed internet connection. Limited internet access or the digital divide is not only an issue in America, but it’s also a global issue, and people living in remote areas are usually the recipients of it.
Due to a lack of network infrastructure in rural areas, people have to rely on limited internet options with slow internet speeds. However, recent times have implored the need for closing the digital divide as high-speed internet access has become a solution for better healthcare and education. Elon Musk’s Starlink is a step towards bridging this digital divide. If you are curious about this technology and whether it will transform satellite internet services, here is everything you need to know!
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet service launched by Elon Musk that uses Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide broadband-level internet access. With this technology, SpaceX aims to bridge the digital divide by providing high-speed internet with low latency to the underserved and rural population.
Starlink comes with a satellite dish and a router to receive signals from the LEO satellite in space. This satellite dish can be installed anywhere in open space, but most people prefer mounting it on the roof of their houses, as they feel that it provides a better service. If you are also confused about mounting your equipment, then Starlink has a solution for that. You can find the best location for your equipment through the Starlink app, available on both Android and iOS.Pros:
- Fast speeds
- Low latency
- Unlimited data
- Expensive equipment
- Limited availability
How Does Starlink Work?
While the other satellite internet services have a wide coverage area because their satellites are miles away from the surface of the Earth, they also suffer from a low latency rate. Starlink operates at a lower orbit to provide faster speeds and lower latency, but this low orbit also means a lower coverage area. Hence, the company has to launch multiple satellites in space.
Starlink also has to build gateways to facilitate communication between satellites, and they are also experimenting with laser technology for direct communication in the future without these gateways.
Starlink provides a seamless connection to its users. Once their Starlink equipment is installed, the antenna automatically locates the closest satellite to establish the connection. As the satellites orbit in a chain, each satellite connects to the next one, thus creating a seamless connection.
What Sets Starlink Apart From Others?
Cost of Starlink
Starlink’s basic plan costs about $99 a month and requires you to pay a one-time $499 fee for the equipment. The plan doesn’t come with a promotional price as of now. The company has also launched a premium plan offering faster speeds and stable connections at a much more expensive price. Starlink premium costs about $500 a month with a whopping $2,500 one-time equipment fee.
While the basic plan is also expensive, its high speed and unlimited data make up for the costs, and SpaceX is mainly targeting businesses with its premium plan.
|Plan||Monthly Price||Equipment Price|
According to users, the current download speed of Starlink is 100 to 200 Mbps, and upload speed is clocking at 30 Mbps. These speeds are much higher than other satellite internet services.
The company plans to increase the download speed to 300 Mbps by launching more satellites into space. Currently, more than 1400 satellites are already operating in space, but the company is looking to increase the number, as they are aiming to bump the speeds to 1000 Mbps.
|Starlink||50 – 150 Mbps|
|Viasat||12 – 100 Mbps|
Latency is the time a data packet takes from one point to another point (usually your device and the server). In simple words, it is the delay between action and reaction. In the gaming community, latency is referred to as lag or ping and a higher latency means longer delay.
Compared to the 594 to 624 milliseconds’ average latency of other satellite internet services, Starlink’s latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds is almost on par with other wired internet services. This latency rate is remarkable for gaming as it is much lower than even what is considered a good latency rate; below 150 milliseconds.
Starlink’s low latency rate is mainly due to the use of Low Earth Orbit satellites. These satellites sit approximately 340 miles away from the Earth’s surface, compared to other providers’ satellites that are 22,000 miles away. This shorter distance makes data transmission much quicker, hence the low latency rate.
No Data Caps
Data caps are an unfortunate aspect of satellite internet connection. However, compared to other satellite internet providers, Starlink doesn’t enforce any data caps as of now. This means that you don’t have to watch your data usage with Starlink, and you can stream, download, play online games and browse to your heart’s content.
Another thing that separates Starlink from other satellite internet providers is the lack of contracts. It also gives you the option to fully refund your equipment fee if you cancel your service and return your equipment within the initial 30 days of subscription.
If you have subscribed to Starlink beta and the service hasn’t reached your area yet, you can also get your $99 deposit refunded if you cancel your service.
Although there is no official coverage map and the service is still in the testing phase, Ookla is publishing Starlink’s coverage areas according to Speedtest data. Starlink is providing its services in specific areas of nearly all states in the US.
The company has also brought its services to global users and is currently providing its services in limited areas of:
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
Can Starlink Handle Congestion?
The report by financial analysts at Cowen predicted that even if Starlink has 12,000 satellites in space, it will only have the capacity for 485,000 users. Other ISPs have also predicted Starlink’s potential congestion issues in the future to FCC. They expect the Starlink service to face major traffic issues as more users get on the network.
With no acknowledgement from SpaceX about this congestion issue or any explanation about the service’s limits, we can only wait for the situation to unfold in the future.
Can Is Starlink Also Vulnerable to Bad Weather?
According to the specs of the Starlink satellite dishes, their operating temperature is from -22°F to 122°F. SpaceX has specially designed the Starlink satellites with a built-in heater to handle wintry and rainy climates. However, users are still advised to handle the satellites with care during winters and keep them clear of the snow for better signal quality.
Starlink’s internet connection is also susceptible to heavy rains or winds, which can potentially lead to rare outages and slower internet speeds.
Signing Up To Starlink
Signing up to Starlink is very simple, you just have to visit their website to see whether their service is available in your area. If it is not available, the company will let you know the approximate date of its arrival.
Although Starlink is currently only serving approximately 145,000 users around the world, many Americans across all the fifty states have signed up to the service to try it out.
As an upcoming satellite internet service, Starlink is expected to transform the current satellite internet services to be on par with other wired internet services. This service can become an excellent option for the rural population. Although it can be a tad expensive compared to other providers, it provides more value with higher speeds, low latency, unlimited data, and no contracts. With so much potential, Starlink can play a significant role in bridging the digital divide between urban and rural populations.