Starlink Satellite Internet Basics
SpaceX is well-known as the brainchild of Elon Musk and has been busy launching rockets and breaking records. Starlink is a branch off of SpaceX and the goal of the company is to rebuild the internet in space to create low-cost, high-speed internet service that will reach remote areas of the world with ease.
Satellite internet itself isn’t anything new to anyone who lives in remote and hard to reach places but the downloads and response times can be slow. Starlink has set out to solve this problem and deliver high-quality internet at an affordable price whether you live on a remote island or deep in the Canadian wilderness.
Plans and Cost
Good internet always comes with a cost. Starlink just released the cost of initial pricing for plans in the US and Canada.
The initial price for plans in the US, as suggested by an interview with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell has been estimated to be around $129/month. The plans will be similarly priced across Canada as well.
At any time 2,000 telecom satellites are orbiting the Earth. These satellites are high above the earth and hover over a certain area of the world. Once they’re in place and hovering they service the same area of the planet with each rotation.
SpaceX and Starlink want to add 30,000 more satellites to the total just to serve their internet network. These won’t be far above the earth like those of previous telecom companies but will be built within the low-Earth orbit. This allows the satellites to act as a constellation and several satellites will service each area of the Earth at any given time.
This combination of lower Earth orbit and high-density satellite coverage will end up with wider internet availability around the world. Starlink’s goal is to be able to reach the most remote 3% of the world with highly reliable and fast internet service once the service is launched commercially.
As the satellites used by Starlink travel in lower Earth orbit, they’re moving at a much faster rate of speed. As they pass by each other they’ll be able to transfer information to each other reducing the chance of service outages.
Satellite TV and the internet have always been notoriously affected by the weather but Starlink’s service has been shown, so far, to be outstanding even when in a storm with no disruptions experienced by testers.
If you’ve ever had your satellite dish come out of alignment it can be a major undertaking requiring specialized personnel and equipment to get it lined back up again. Even dealing with initial installation can mean putting an unsightly and unwieldy piece of equipment within the middle of your carefully cultivated yard.
Dishes from Starlink are user-friendly and include motors that will self-adjust to always give you the best signal. The installation is as simple as plugging it in and pointing it at the sky. The setup was tested among those who were fighting wildfires this past summer and communications were clear and reliable for those who were on the front lines.
One of the biggest questions when it comes to the internet is how fast it is. Satellite internet has always been notoriously slow on top of being unreliable as the time it takes for the signal to leave the computer and travel to high flying satellites is longer than many like to wait.
With Starlink’s larger, lower-flying network, the speed is greatly increased. Starlink can send larger packets of information back and forth more quickly than other satellite internet services and you’ll see speeds up to 1 Gbps. These speeds are comparable to those seen by fiber-optic plans around the world.
In addition to fast speeds, the latency or gap in time from sending the signal to receiving a response is much lower. Traditionally, satellite internet provides latency speeds of about 600ms while Starlink is returning responses of about 20ms. As more satellites are launched, the company is confident that the speed will drop to below 10ms.
Starlink Launch and Availability
While not everyone can take part in the Starlink internet service just yet, they have launched limited-capacity beta testing within the US. They’ve also received licensing to become one of Canada’s fully independent internet providers.
They want to bring their internet access to the commercial Canadian and US market soon and are hoping to be globally available with a launch by the end of 2021.