Starlink Internet Service by SpaceX

Starlink satellite internet hasn’t been around for very long yet, but in some areas of the US, Mexico, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia you can sign up to be part of testing the service. Starlink does not have any data limits on their service, so no matter how much you download, your speed will stay the same. No other satellite internet company offers service without limits like that.

What makes SpaceX owned Starlink so appealing?

Starlink is still in testing, and isn’t available everywhere yet

Starlink has yet to finish launching all the satellites it plans to have in orbit. That’s why it still isn’t an option for many people. It is still being considered in Beta, which is a word used to describe a product being tested, but still in active development. Customers can expect that they won’t get speeds as fast as Starlink plans to reach in the future.

Starlink isn’t being pitched as a finished product, so it should come as no surprise that there are temporary breaks in coverage as well. As more satellites get launched, the service should improve. Right now, it’s available in fourteen countries, is expected to come out of Beta soon, and has less than 2,000 of over 30,000 planned satellites in orbit.

Even though SpaceX has managed to continue launching satellites very quickly, don’t expect Starlink to be able to provide a perfect connection for some time.

Is Starlink available everywhere?

There are 14 different countries with access to Starlink internet so far, but it is still only sections of those countries that can get Starlink internet. Even if you can purchase Starlink, though, you still may not be able to use it. For the Starlink satellite dish to connect to the internet, it must have a clear view of the sky so it can see the satellite in orbit. So, there are some places, like downtown in a city or in the middle of a forest, that may never be able to get Starlink satellite internet to work.

How fast are satellites being launched?

SpaceX continues to launch somewhere around 120 satellites per month into orbit but is still only around 5% of the planned satellites in the constellation. The speed will have to increase if they expect to finish the constellation any time soon.

What is the size of Starlink’s customer base?

It isn’t clear how many customers are actually using the service, but somewhere around 500,000 people have purchased it.

How can I purchase Starlink satellite internet?

The only way to find out if you can purchase Starlink, is to enter your address on Starlink’s website. If service isn’t available to you now, you may be put on a waiting list, and you will be informed if Starlink comes to your area. There have been many reports of long wait times though, even as long as a few years. The ring around the globe between 45 and 53 degrees latitude is currently the area that is best for getting Starlink.

What other Satellite internet options are there?

Since the wait for Starlink internet may be very long, you are probably going to want a different internet solution for now. Companies like Viasat and HughesNet have been around for much longer than Starlink and are available just about everywhere. You can still put your name on the waiting list for about $500 if you want to, but it may be years before you hear anything.

One great option available with Viasat satellite internet is the Platinum Unlimited 100 plan. With that you can get 300GB of data each month with a max speed of 100Mbps. If you want a budget-friendly option and you don’t need to use the internet as much, HughesNet has a great 20GB plan available.

Viasat plans

HughesNet plans

*Listed prices are for the first 3 months only, after that the regular rates apply. **Requires a 2-year commitment

About Starlink

Starlink is a subsidiary of SpaceX. It was created with the hope that it would help bring in money to fund the company’s plans to create a human colony on Mars. While most satellite internet providers put their satellites in geostationary orbit, Starlink’s satellites are in the much closer low-Earth orbit. This is believed to be why Starlink can offer such a low latency compared to other providers.

Starlink has about 1800 satellites in orbit, but to finish the project they expect to eventually have 42,000. Not all of those have been approved yet though. Only 12,000 have the FCC’s stamp of approval so far. Starlink is expecting to eliminate the problems customers currently face as the constellation of satellites grows.

Right now, the self-installation kit with Starlink satellite dish, satellite dish base, modem and cables has a price tag of $499 and the monthly fee for internet service is $99. Enter your address on Starlink’s website to get on the waiting list for the Starlink Beta.

What makes Starlink unique?

Starlink has considerably reduced the cost of launching satellites into orbit, largely due to their launch rockets being reusable. Until now, a new rocket had to be made every time a launch was needed. This means that the cost reduction rises dramatically each time a rocket is reused.

As Starlink continues building their satellite constellation, they are targeting some areas first, which means availability during the beta can vary substantially by area. The northern United States and Canada were the first to have coverage.

Starlink is expecting to increase availability over the next few years to cover the entire globe, even some places where there isn’t any kind of internet service available at all right now. Santa will finally be able to read his email from home, because Starlink plans to make internet available even to the North Pole! The satellites launched into low orbit will send data back and forth to stations on the ground to deliver an incredibly fast internet connection all over the world.

So far, customers are not able to take their Starlink internet connection with them on the road, or to a new location without permanently changing their service's associated address. But the plan is to eventually allow customers to use their internet service anywhere they can take their satellite dish, including on vehicles in motion. This would be fantastic for people who own RVs, boats, planes, and other vehicles.

While these plans are still in the works, CEO Elon Musk hopes to have a mobile solution available to customers by the end of the year.

What is the price of Starlink Internet?

The service itself costs $99 per month, but the required self-installation kit to get started costs $499. If you need the satellite dish installed anywhere that isn’t ground-level though, you’ll need to purchase additional mounting equipment.

This makes the expense a big roadblock for potential customers with low-income, which is unfortunate, because many of those with low-income live in rural and remote areas and Starlink internet could be very helpful to them. Starlink’s high cost makes it unavailable to a tenth of the world who live in extreme poverty.

Starlink is doing what they can to lower costs though. There are plans to cut the cost of making the satellite dishes in half, and then in half again in the future. Hopefully Starlink will pass at least some of that on to its customers.

How does Starlink internet work?

Starlink has its satellites in a grid, or constellation, orbiting around the earth together sending and receiving signals to and from stations set up on the ground and customers' satellite dishes. Eventually, there will be enough satellites to get internet service anywhere on the planet, and satellites will be able to transmit data from one satellite to another as well using lasers. This should increase the speed and reduce the latency of Starlink’s internet service even further.

Most other satellites are around 36,000 km away from Earth. Starlink’s satellites, however, are between 540 km to 1,150 km away. This is why Starlink has such a lower latency than other satellite internet providers.

Internet in rural areas

While Starlink hopes to one day be available everywhere, they still have a long way to go. You may not be able to get Starlink, even if you are in an area where they provide coverage, if there are already too many customers subscribed in that area. If you sign up and there isn’t room available, you’ll be put on a waiting list until more satellites have been launched and your turn arrives, which could take years.

Most people can’t wait that long to use the internet. Luckily, there are other satellite internet providers like Viasat and HughesNet that can get you connected right away. You won’t get quite the same connection that Starlink eventually plans to have, but they can provide you with a fast, reliable way to stay connected with friends, family, and what’s going on in the world around you.

Public awareness of Starlink

Not as many people have heard of Starlink as you might think, although most people have at least heard of SpaceX. Of those who have heard of it, nearly half think that it is only going to be for people living in remote areas, even though it’s going to be available all over the world. Most people are happy enough with their current provider that they won’t change to Starlink, but there will certainly be some who will.

Will Starlink increase the number of people with internet access?

Having access to the internet can increase job opportunities, and provide access to important services, many of which can be difficult to access in less developed countries. However, Starlink can only help here if the price reaches a point where it is affordable.

About 60% of the world can access and use the internet regularly, so it is likely that having Starlink internet available in even the remotest areas may increase that percentage.

Underdeveloped countries often have either limited internet availability or very high prices. Only around a third of the population of developing countries has access to the internet. The difference in economic success of wealthier countries and poorer will continue to widen if poorer countries continue to have worse access to the internet. Hopefully, Starlink will be able to provide the service in an affordable enough way to make a difference.

The problems with increasing availability of internet access

It can be very difficult to increase the availability of traditional ground-based internet service because it is so expensive to build the infrastructure required. Even if that problem were solved though, many would still be unable to connect to the internet.

Even in places where there are available internet access options, sometimes the prices are just too high. Only the richest people can access the internet in some areas of the world. At current prices, Starlink won’t be able to put a dent in the problem, but they are planning to try in the future.

Which countries have access to Starlink?

So far, Starlink is available in some parts of the following countries:

Visit Starlink’s website if you want to join the waiting list.

What other internet options are there for rural communities?

Starlink isn’t the only company offering high-speed satellite internet service.

What if Starlink isn’t available to me?

If you can’t get by without internet for a few years, and you need a satellite internet service provider, you should look at the options Viasat is offering. If you need something now, but you’re on a tight budget, HughesNet might be the best option for you.

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