Does Starlink throttle speed?

People who use cable or fiber internet are used to having no data caps. That’s because the infrastructure used by cable and fiber have very large bandwidths that can handle lots of users at the same time. There’s no need to cut people off. But when these users sign up for satellite internet, they may be surprised to find that their data is suddenly limited. Even if there is no hard data cap, many satellite internet companies will throttle download speeds if you pass the allotted amount of data. This is the norm for satellite internet. But Starlink is changing a lot of the norms of satellite internet, and that includes providing unlimited data.

The biggest question on everyone’s mind, though, is if this can last. Starlink satellite internet is only in its beta phase and we can only guess what it will become when it’s fully set up. The usual hindrance to unlimited data is total throughput of the satellites. Starlink currently has about 1,500 satellites in orbit, with hopes to increase to up to 42,000. That’s a lot of satellites! This might make one thing that Starlink will easily be able to provide unlimited data as the project progresses.

But there are some facts that cast doubt on that. First is that those 1,500 satellites are serving a limited area right now: just the US, Canada, and the UK. Those 42,000 will split their services among locations all around the world. Second is that the number of satellites will (potentially) increase 28x. But with only around 70,000 users right now, a 28x increase in users would mean less than 2 million users worldwide. I’d bet my left lung SpaceX is hoping for more than 2 million worldwide customers. With the future of Starlink internet services being spread over the entire globe and over a larger user-to-satellite ratio, it’s hard to predict whether Starlink will be able to continue providing unlimited data.

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