Wednesday, July 6, 2022

What is Starlink Internet and should you use it?


If you live in a rural or remote area with an unreliable or non-existent internet connection, Starlink is often touted as the solution to all your broadband problems. But what is it and does it even make sense to you?

Serving the Underserved

Starlink is a satellite internet provider owned by rocket maker SpaceX. It provides high-speed broadband connection. Although it started out as providing internet access to the American people, the company has since expanded its availability to more than a dozen markets around the world. Over time, Starlink hopes to offer its services globally.

The company primarily targets consumers living in underserved or remote areas. But it could end up in urban centers as well.

How does the Starlink Internet work?


Satellite internet services have been around for years. You may have heard of HughesNet or Viasat. All satellite internet providers basically give you an internet connection in the same way. Typically, satellites, ground stations and satellite dishes are involved. When you try to visit a website, a request from your computer is sent from your router to your satellite dish, which then sends it to the satellite. The satellite passes that request to a ground station that locates the website server, gets the relevant data, and sends it back to the satellite, which sends it to you through the antenna and router.

While this may seem like a very long process, it’s not that different from how your wired internet works. Only the route and media are different, the working principle is the same.

However, what sets Starlink Internet apart from existing satellite internet providers is its satellite orbit. Companies like HughesNet and Viasat use satellites in geostationary orbit, usually about 35,000 kilometers away from you. These satellites have great coverage, but their internet connections are slow and have high latency.

On the other hand, Starlink uses a fleet of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites at about 550 kilometers. The coverage of these satellites is relatively small. But because they are in low orbits, the data transfer times to and from users are much lower than typical satellite internet services. Therefore, the latency is much lower. Starlink also offers faster internet speeds than other satellite ISPs.

As of April 2022, Starlink has launched more than 2,000 satellites. But the company eventually hopes to have as many as 42,000 satellites in Earth orbit to beam the internet to every corner of the world.

Who should get Starlink Internet?

Starlink Antennas and Routers

Starlink Internet is for people who live in areas with low, limited or non-existent Internet connectivity. If you need high-speed internet and are willing to pay extra for it, Starlink might be a good choice.

Since it doesn’t require any ground-based infrastructure, you can use it almost anywhere. This gives you a degree of freedom and flexibility that is simply not possible with other types of internet services. That said, the company currently only guarantees service at your registered address. So you can’t simply pick up your gear and move to another city or state. However, roaming support is imminent and likely in the future.

However, since this is still early days for the company and Starlink is still building out its satellite constellation, outages and coverage issues are an issue. A quick look at Down Detector, a service that tracks network and website outages, reveals that intermittent connections and service outages are common. These problems will decrease as Starlink adds more satellites to its constellation. But considering the company is only launching around 100-150 satellites a month as of early 2022, that could take years.

So if you have access to a decent broadband provider, it’s best to stick with them until Starlink matures. But if you simply have no other option, Starlink will let you connect, although you may have to deal with some of its growing pains.

How fast is Starlink Internet and what can you do on it?

Starlink speed

Starlink said that at most service locations, its customers can expect download speeds of between 100Mbps and 200Mbps with latency of about 20ms, which is more than enough for the average user, including streaming, playing online games, videoconferencing and general web browsing .

The company is working hard to deliver on that promise. According to data shared by internet speed tracking service Ookla, Starlink recorded a median download speed of 105Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2021, while upload speed was 13.5Mbps with a latency of 40ms. That’s still not the speed of your average “fixed” broadband provider, but it’s a significant improvement over other satellite internet providers.

related: Internet problems?Here’s how to tell if it’s your ISP’s fault

How much do you need to pay for this?

Starlink internet charges vary by country. But if you live in the US, you’ll have to pay $599 for the Starlink Kit, excluding tax and shipping, and a monthly service fee of $110. However, the kit has everything you need to get the internet up and running.

Since the company does not provide installation services, you may also have to spend some money to install the plate in a suitable location on the roof, depending on your convenience.

related: What is fiber internet (and how is it different)?

How can you get it?

You can order Starlink Internet services on the company website. You must enter the address of the service using the internet, and if the location is available and not fully booked, you will be able to enter your details and order Starlink.

However, if the limited number of available slots in your location has already been filled, you may have to wait a few months to get it. In the meantime, you can choose to pre-order Starlink by paying a reservation fee and give yourself a spot in the queue.

As of November 2021, more than 750,000 people have signed up for Starlink Internet and are waiting to use the service.

What is Starlink business?

Starlink business module

Starlink Business, formerly known as Starlink Premium, is a service tier for small businesses. It hopes to meet the needs of small businesses by offering faster internet connections than regular plans. Business plan users can expect internet speeds of 150Mbps to 500Mbps.

As you might expect, the business plan is much more expensive than the regular plan. The Starlink kit for the business plan is $2,500 in the US and $500 per month for service.

One of the reasons the business plan is so expensive is that its dishes are different from what regular plan users get. The dish has a larger scan array to support faster internet speeds and improve performance in light obstructions.

promising options

While Starlink has a long way to go, the satellite internet provider has shown great potential. For the first time, people in rural and remote areas can expect high-speed connectivity. The popularity of Starlink will also push other companies to build similar services, and we’ve seen some action from Amazon’s Project Kuiper, OneWeb, and even Boeing. Starlink is also expected to force existing satellite internet providers to improve their services.


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