Starlink pros and cons
Starlink, the satellite internet provider created by SpaceX, is one of the most exciting and important developments currently happening in satellite internet (and internet in general). Unlike traditional satellite internet, which operates using satellites in a high, geostationary orbit, Starlink will use thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit.
By placing its satellites much closer to Earth, Starlink will cut the journey your data makes to a fraction of the distance it has to travel with providers like HughesNet and Viasat, dramatically reducing latency and making it possible to use its services for real-time applications like video chat and online gaming, which struggle on satellite connections.
That said, Starlink is still a newcomer to the satellite internet market, which comes with its share of both potential and uncertainty. Starlink has the potential to completely reshape satellite internet and internet in rural America by providing greater access, faster speeds, and lower prices than many of its competitors. It’s also the first network of its kind, so it faces new challenges from maintaining its rigorous launch schedule to ensuring its supply chain can keep pace with the overwhelming customer demand.1
- Works in rural areas
- Offers speeds up to 100 Mbps
- Has low latency
- Still has higher latency than wired connections
- Still in private beta testing phase
- Requires expensive equipment
Starlink is currently in beta, so the only people who have used it up to this point have been mostly Starlink employees. Starlink only recently opened their beta to the first batch of public beta testers, but it will need many more before the service is ready to go live.2
If you’re interested in being a beta tester for Starlink, you can share your information with the company on its website. This is by no means a guarantee that you’ll be selected to be a beta tester, but it will also sign you up for news and updates so you’ll be among the first to know when Starlink internet goes live in your area.
Starlink Internet plan
We currently know about only the basic Starlink internet service, and it’s unclear if Starlink will offer multiple tiers of service like other satellite services. Still, its basic tier offers incredibly fast download speeds for satellite internet at a price that still beats anything remotely comparable from its competitors. Stay tuned to over the next couple of months to see more information about plans and speeds as it becomes available.
What we know about Starlink fees and charges
One of the most attractive features of Starlink’s internet service is the promise of a fast, affordable internet connection in rural areas. Thus far, Starlink hasn’t announced any sort of tiered pricing or data caps, though that could change as we get closer to the official launch.3
The current cost estimate for Starlink at launch is $99 per month for the internet service, plus an upfront fee of $499 for the equipment. As the official launch draws nearer, these prices may change. Be sure to check back for updates as new information becomes available.
Learn more about Starlink and satellite internet
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|Get the pros and cons of the other major players in the satellite internet market: Viasat and HughesNet.||Find out how Starlink speeds compare to other types of internet service.||Why is Starlink such a big deal? Learn more about how Starlink addresses current satellite internet limitations.|
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Starlink has the potential to be a game changer. If successful, it could make the kind of high-speed internet connections previously available only in large cities available to rural areas in the US and around the world. Currently, only about 35% of people in developing countries have access to the internet.4 Starlink could make that number 100% as early as 2021.1
Starlink could also help to bridge the digital divide in the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access has become even more important to families’ economic well-being.5 Internet connectivity has also become important for things like distance learning and telemedicine.5
Starlink’s high download speeds and low latency don’t just make it a great option in rural internet markets. In many urban areas that only have access to DSL, Starlink’s satellite internet might actually offer better speeds than wired connections. While communication technologies like fiber are still the best way to connect to the internet, Starlink could become a practical alternative to many aging internet technologies.
1. Michael Sheetz, CNBC, “SpaceX Says Starlink Internet Has ‘Extraordinary Demand,’ with Nearly 700,000 Interested in Service,” August 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.
2. Michael Sheetz, CNBC, “SpaceX Prices Starlink Satellite Internet Service at $99 per Month, According to E-mail,” October 27, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.
3. Minda Zetlin, Inc., “Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellite Internet Service Might Be Available in November” April 24, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.
4. The World Bank. “Connecting for Inclusion: Broadband Access for All,” Accessed October 27, 2020.
5. Colby Leigh Rachfal, Congressional Research Service, “COVID-19 and Broadband: Potential Implications for the Digital Divide,” March 13, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.
6. Isobel Asher Hamilton, “Elon Musk Says Starlink Now Has Enough Satellites in Orbit to Launch a Public Beta of Its High-Speed Internet Service,” October 2020. Accessed October 14, 2020.
7. Kate Duffy, Business Insider, “Spacex’s Starlink Internet Speeds Are Consistently Topping 150 Mbps — Now Elon Musk Says the Biggest Challenge Is Slashing the $600 Up-front Cost for Users” November 4, 2020. Accessed November 12, 2020.