The Starlink network provides high-speed satellite connectivity.
Still, it may be a blessing in disguise for the vast majority of Internet users.
- What is Starlink?
- What is Starlink’s price?
- How exactly does Starlink function?
- What is the speed of Starlink’s internet service?
- Starlink’s Future
Starlink is a six-year-old part of SpaceX, a company that makes spacecraft and sends people and things into space. It has spent the last three years putting more than 1,000 satellites into orbit, and the US Federal Communications Commission just gave it a grant of $885.5 million.
If you live in a city or a big suburb, you probably have fast internet, maybe even 1Gbps or more. But think about having to deal with internet speeds of 20Mbps or even 0.8Mbps every day. Worse, you can only choose between one or two internet service providers for your home, leaving you stuck with bad service.
People in the US and all over the world are stuck in the same situation. In a city, installing fiber and bringing Gigabit broadband to millions of customers could be profitable, but in a rural area with only a few hundred people, it might not be as profitable.
Enter Starlink. SpaceX’s satellite internet system can send 150Mbps internet speeds to any place on the planet, in theory. The customer only needs to be able to see the sky. In the fall of 2020, the system started to serve its first users. Many of them lived in remote or rural parts of the United States, and their response was, to say the least, positive.
We’ll answer some basic questions about Starlink below, including ones that our readers have asked. Let us know what other questions you have in the comments, and we’ll add them to the story.
What is Starlink?
SpaceX, which was started by Elon Musk in 2002, runs the Starlink satellite internet service. SpaceX makes rockets and spaceships and sends them into space. In 2019, SpaceX started sending Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit. As of September 2022, the company had already sent more than 3,000 satellites into this area.
Starlink’s main goal is to bring fast, low-latency broadband internet to rural and remote areas around the world. As of September 2022, the first month of service will cost $110 and the hardware will cost $599.
The idea is that you can connect to the internet through Starlink satellites. Starlink says it will bring “high-speed broadband internet to places where access has been spotty or nonexistent.” At the moment, it only works at home and not on the go, but that will change soon. There are other satellite Internet service providers, like HughesNet or Viasat, but Starlink is better known because Elon Musk and SpaceX are connected to it.
Starlink is made up of a few parts: the constellation of satellites that beam internet access down to Earth, which is also called Starlink; the hardware on Earth that is needed to connect to Starlink’s satellite internet service; and the subscription fee that SpaceX charges to use its internet.
The Starlink satellite constellation is also being used in a joint project with T-Mobile to cover all of the United States and, eventually, the whole world with cell phone service.
Where can I get service?
SpaceX says that Starlink’s service is “perfect for places around the world where getting connected has been hard in the past.” At the moment, it is only available in certain parts of the US, Canada, the UK, and other places. Most of the coverage is in places between 45 and 53 degrees North latitude.
The service is “available” in most of Europe and North America, as well as parts of South America, Australia, and New Zealand, according to a map that Starlink shared. The rest of the world, including Africa, is listed as “coming soon” and is expected to be available in 2023. At the beginning of this year, SpaceX said that it was only available in 25 countries.
Because it has a large number of satellites, Starlink’s service has grown a lot. The company has more than 3,000 satellites in space right now, and it keeps adding to that number with nearly weekly launches. SpaceX sent 54 more satellites into space on September 18, 2022.
Starlink says it is available on all seven continents. In September 2022, the US National Science Foundation said it was testing Starlink “polar service” in Antarctica. But as of mid-September 2022, the Starlink website says that service is “coming soon” to all of Africa. On the site, it says that service will begin in Q4 2022 in Nigeria and Mozambique.
When Starlink opened in Malta in September 2022, the service was technically available in 40 countries. It has the best coverage in the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Starlink is working on expanding its services to mobile sites and vehicles, such as RVs and boats, so that you can take your broadband with you when you’re on the go. Plans call for all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises ships to have Starlink by 2023. SpaceX is also working with airlines like Hawaiian Airlines to offer Starlink connectivity on flights.
Do I get to use Starlink in the city?
SpaceX has mostly avoided putting Starlink in cities for now. There’s not much reason for Starlink to try to compete with big internet service providers on Earth, which can offer high-speed plans for closer to $50 a month.
Musk also said that the satellite technology would have trouble providing enough internet bandwidth to users in places with a lot of people. Starlink is great for places with a low to medium number of people. But they are not good for cities with lots of people.
Can I use my Starlink dish somewhere besides where I bought it?
Yes, you can. In May 2022, the company added a new portability feature that lets users move their service temporarily to a different location. The roaming option, on the other hand, costs an extra $25 per month.
As for cars, the FCC has given the company permission to use Starlink on moving vehicles like cars, boats, and planes. But SpaceX has not yet announced that users will be able to use the “in-motion” feature.
Can Starlink be used while traveling?
In April 2021, Musk said on Twitter that the service is ready to go “fully mobile.” Musk says that the Starlink terminals are too big for Tesla cars, but he says they could work in planes, RVs, trucks, ships, and boats.
In a later interview, SpaceX’s CEO said, “Starlink should be totally mobile by the end of the year, so you can take it anyplace or use it on a moving RV or vehicle.” Still, he noted that “many more satellite launches and some major software modifications” are required before the business can provide global coverage.
What is Starlink’s price?
The cost of the internet subscription is $99 per month (plus taxes and fees). Additionally, the mountable satellite dish and router cost $500.
Starlink’s fast internet service is not inexpensive, but subscribers in rural regions who have long battled with sluggish broadband have informed us that the price is justified.
Additionally, the company has created a Premium Starlink service that provides quicker speeds and more stable connections. However, it costs $500 per month and an additional $2,500 for the Premium Starlink dish. SpaceX seems to be selling the service primarily to companies.
In Europe and Latin America, Starlink has lately lowered costs by up to 50 percent.
Globally, distant and rural enterprises may purchase Starlink Business for $500 per month plus a one-time hardware fee of $2,500. With download rates of up to 350 Mbps and latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds, this service enables connection for offices with up to 20 employees, storefronts, and heavy workloads around the world.
Starlink for recreational vehicles costs $135 per month and $599 for gear. Customers are able to suspend and resume service at any time and are invoiced monthly.
Starlink Maritime costs $5,000 per month in addition to a $10,000 one-time hardware fee for two high-performance terminals. It provides download rates of up to 350 Mbps when at sea. As with Starlink for RVs, clients may suspend and resume service at any time and are paid monthly.
What hardware does Starlink include?
When you subscribe to Starlink, you will get a satellite dish and router in a package.
To establish the connection, you need just install a satellite dish at your residence. It receives the signal and forwards the available bandwidth to the router. There is a Starlink app for Android and iOS that use augmented reality to assist clients in deciding where to install their home receivers.
How can I enroll in Starlink?
Starlink has started taking orders from clients who want to test the service. Enter your address on Starlink’s website and click “buy now” to determine your eligibility.
Check out Starlink.com. The website will collect your address and indicate if satellite internet service is available in your region. If not, the firm will provide an estimated arrival date for Starlink. The majority of customers will likely have to wait months, if not longer; wait periods have extended until the beginning of 2023.
According to a document SpaceX presented to the FCC in February 2021, “hundreds of thousands” of individuals in the United States have signed up to test out Starlink.
For each coverage region, requests are likewise treated on a first-come, first-served basis. If your area is already saturated with Starlink users, you will have to wait till coverage improves. Pre-ordering via Starlink’s website needs a refundable $99 fee to secure a slot.
Can You Bypass the Waiting List?
Yes, but you will have to make some concessions. The business released Starlink RV in May 2022. It is designed for customers who like road travels in rural locations. However, there is no waiting list, so anybody may purchase and SpaceX will ship instantly.
Starlink RV costs $135 per month, an increase from $110 per month. If the local region is already saturated with home Starlink subscribers, consumers will also experience degraded internet. In densely populated locations, expect Internet rates as sluggish as 5Mbps.
When Will You Get Starlink?
In 2021, due to a semiconductor shortage, SpaceX was unable to fulfill Starlink orders. Since some pre-order clients had waited over a year for the service, this left many of them dissatisfied.
SpaceX’s current challenge is launching more Starlink satellites into orbit to expand the network’s capacity. Musk intends to treble the number of Starlink satellites over the course of the next year. In the meanwhile, the company’s help website has informed still-waiting customers: “Based on the configuration of our constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, our network can only accept a limited number of users in a given location.
This implies that in regions with strong demand, some customers may have lengthier wait times.”
In the meanwhile, Starlink has introduced a “Best Effort” tier for pre-purchase clients who have been waiting for the company’s order backlog to be cleared. Download speeds will vary from 5Mbps to 100Mbps, and there is no price reduction.
How exactly does Starlink function?
The technology behind satellite-based internet connectivity has been around for a long time. As opposed to using wires, this method uses radio waves to transmit data via space. The signals are sent from ground stations on Earth to satellites in space, which may subsequently send the information back to users on the ground.
The SpaceX system has two major advantages over the previous technology: The corporation is interested in using satellites in low Earth orbit, which circle the globe at a relatively low altitude of around 300 miles. Because of the shorter distance, internet speeds and latency may be greatly improved. SpaceX plans to deploy as many as 40,000 satellites over the next several years to power the system and guarantee continuous service anywhere in the world.
A Starlink kit, from the consumer’s point of view, consists of a Starlink satellite dish, WiFi router/power supply, cables, and a base. In order to test your internet connection, the Starlink base is built for ground-level installation or a quick-start configuration. However, for the most secure setup, a permanent mount is recommended.
So long as it has a good view of the sky, the Starlink dish can immediately connect and automatically adjust its orientation. After the hardware is installed, you may connect to the Starlink network and control your service via the Starlink mobile app.
SpaceX’s huge satellite network in low Earth orbit (approximately 550 km) provides the foundation for the Starlink service. Other satellite Internet providers, on the other hand, rely on a single, Earth-orbiting satellite for their service. Starlink is able to provide faster service with less interruption because of its numerous low-orbit satellites.
In order to boost capacity, each satellite contains both parabolic and phased array antennas.
Starlink satellites currently in orbit.
In 2018, the first prototype satellites for Starlink were put into space. Since then, there have been over 20 additional successful launches, increasing the total number of satellites deployed to around 1,300 as of February 2021. Falcon 9 orbital rockets built and operated by SpaceX were used to place some of the satellites into orbit.
In the future, Starlink plans to have satellites orbiting Earth that can transmit a high-speed Wi-Fi signal to every location on the world. To do this, Starlink will likely need to deploy at least 10,000 satellites into orbit. Musk has said the service should be available everywhere by 2022, if SpaceX is able to safely launch many more satellites. SpaceX has hinted that it wants as many as 30,000 satellites in the constellation.
Can It Be Easily Setup?
Customers of Starlink have reported that the typical setup time for the necessary hardware is about five minutes. No expert is required. However, if you need to mount the Starlink dish on the top of your house in order to get the high-speed internet, installation time may increase.
You should put your Starlink up as high as you dare, as long as you have a good view of the sky. According to the company’s “however, as additional satellites are launched, the field of vision limits will diminish, allowing a larger range of users,” users who reside in places with lots of tall trees, buildings, etc. may not be appropriate candidates for early usage of Starlink.
Users have figured out methods to expand the range of the original Starlink dish’s 100-foot wire.
What is the speed of Starlink’s internet service?
Ookla’s tests demonstrate that, regardless of location, Starlink is consistently substantially quicker than competitor satellite internet providers. Quite impressively, Starlink doubles the average download speed of fixed broadband providers in the United Kingdom. According to Ookla, Starlink’s median download speed in the United States reached slightly over 62 Mbps in the second quarter of 2022. That is more than enough for one or two individuals to watch films, download games, or do any other desired Internet activity. In contrast, download speeds in the United States were closer to 90 Mbps a year ago.
It turns out that Starlink’s performance is being affected by its expanding client base. In fact, Starlink speeds declined in every country examined by Ookla in the second quarter, including Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America.
Elon Musk’s February 2021 prediction that Starlink’s download rates would reach 300 Mbps by the end of the year has been pushed farther away by the drop in speeds.
Global upload rates for Starlink decreased in Q2 2022, although latency remained largely stable. Starlink’s median latency in the United States was 48 milliseconds, lower than comparable satellite operators.
While Starlink’s speeds have fallen, the service was much faster than other satellite-based broadband solutions in the United States during the second quarter. According to Ookla, the download rates for Viasat were just over 23 Mbps. HughesNet download speeds were little below 23 Mbps. With download speeds of 150.12 Mbps, fixed broadband was still far quicker than any satellite-based offerings in the United States.
Since February 2022, Starlink has provided a Premium tier with download rates of 150 to 500 Mbps and latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds. Also, the upload speed is increased to 40Mbps. Despite this, it comes at a hefty price.
According to customers, Starlink now provides download speeds of 50 to 200 Mbps and upload rates of around 30 Mbps. The latency is around 20 milliseconds, which is comparable to ground-based Internet. SpaceX intends to increase internet speeds to 300Mbps over time, however some customers are now experiencing congestion concerns. More on this to come.
Expect an improvement in speed as SpaceX launches additional Starlink satellites into orbit; as of July 2022, there are over 2,500 operational Starlink satellites. The company’s long-term objective is to operate thousands of satellites, paving the path for 1Gbps and subsequently 10Gbps download rates.
What about congestion as the number of users increases?
Depending on where you reside, it would seem that Starlink’s rapid expansion might impede speeds. SpaceX has confirmed in private that some customers have already encountered congestion concerns. In certain instances, congestion is so severe that consumers report download rates below 10 Mbps and increased latency.
The corporation promises to solve congestion issues by sending more Starlink satellites into space. Given Starlink’s rising popularity in the United States and elsewhere, however, some users are skeptical that SpaceX can carry this off.
Are Games Playable on Starlink?
Yes, several footage of Starlink users playing games like as Overwatch and Fortnite can be seen on YouTube. According to users, there may be some latency, particularly when your connection travels between Starlink satellites, but the experience is enjoyable.
Are There Data Limits?
In America. In a 2020 AMA, the business said, “We definitely don’t want to adopt draconian data limitations as consumers have faced in the past with satellite internet.” “Right now, we’re still trying to figure out a lot of things; in the future, we may need to do something to prevent abuse and guarantee that everyone else receives decent service.”
In France, though, the business has begun testing the implementation of high-speed data limits. Users who spend less than 250 GB of data per month will be prioritized. “Users who surpass 250 GB per month will still have unlimited internet access, but they may experience reduced speeds during network congestion,” SpaceX informed consumers.
Does Starlink function in cold or wet weather?
The Starlink satellite dish, which was developed by SpaceX, does, in fact, have an internal heater to ensure proper operation in icy conditions. As a result, the dish may cause the ice around it to melt.
SpaceX still recommends that consumers clear snow from the dish to improve signal strength. The company warns that “heavy rain or wind can also disrupt your satellite Internet connection,” which might lead to slower speeds and even temporary outages.
The company recommends installing Starlink somewhere that won’t get too much snow or have any other obstacles in its line of sight. Additionally, it states that “severe rain or wind can disrupt your satellite Internet connection, perhaps resulting in lower speeds or the occasional interruption.”
SpaceX informed the U.S. government in May 2022 that its worldwide subscriber base exceeded 400 thousand.
SpaceX is in the process of extending its Starlink service worldwide. Musk has pledged to seek waivers from restrictions that prevent the company from providing internet service to countries such as Iran.
In the meanwhile, SpaceX has collaborated with T-Mobile to eliminate mobile dead zones. Using its current mid-band spectrum, T-Mobile intends to allow mobile phones to connect to Starlink satellites, therefore delivering cell connectivity to distant places without cell service. Once the service is launched, the second-generation satellites of Starlink will be able to transmit straight to mobile devices.