SpaceX has been launching regular batches of Starlink satellites since May 2019 and now has hundreds of nodes in its megaconstellation. This provides enough coverage that SpaceX has launched a beta test of its new satellite Internet service. According to data from the Ookla Speedtest (and analyzed by our colleagues at PCMag), Starlink meets its high speed demands.
Starlink is joining a market that has long been dominated by a handful of companies such as HughesNet and Viasat, which offer slow satellite internet as a last resort for consumers who have no other options. The current network has almost 900 satellites, some of which travel much lower than traditional Internet satellites. This helps Starlink deliver higher speeds and lower latency.
Although Starlink isn’t cheap with its $ 500 equipment fee and $ 100 monthly bill, it far outperforms other satellite ISPs. In its invitation emails, SpaceX promises between 50 and 150Mbps and works well in this range. With the release of the beta version, Ookla marked a jump in the average speed of Starlink from 30-40Mbps to 79.5Mbps down.
Speed comparison is not good for the old guard of satellite internet. HughesNet consumes only 19.84Mbps down, and Viasat is not much better with 24.75Mbps. The difference in upload speeds is even brighter. While Starlink currently manages an average upload of 13.8Mbps, HughesNet and Viasat are at 2.64 and 3.25Mbps, respectively.
Everyone focuses on download speeds, but you need a decent upload to the video calls that have become such an important part of our lives during the pandemic. Latency is also an important part of real-time services, such as video chats. Again, Starlink is blowing other satellite Internet services out of the water. Ookla data show Starlink with 42ms latency on average. That’s enough to make video chats bearable. By comparison, HughesNet has a 728ms latency. SpaceX even claims that its network will be able to reach less than 20ms by next summer. I get 8-10ms on my home cable connection.
Currently, the beta version of Starlink is only available to select customers in the northern United States. CEO Elon Musk has said he hopes to expand the beta in Canada. Ultimately, the Starlink megaconstellation will include at least 12,000 covered satellites for most of the world.