Starlink satellite internet service shares similarities and differences with other traditional satellite internet providers. For satellite internet customers, internet service requires using a home satellite dish wired to a modem or modem/router indoors. It also requires clear access to portions of the sky for clear signal transmission. In this way, it’s different from the way internet users connect to cable or fiber internet, or cellular 4G or 5G internet.
Satellites in orbit above the earth transmit signals which carry data and travel between home satellite dishes, orbiting broadband satellites, and ground stations. Using satellites is especially helpful in providing internet access for people in areas with limited high-speed internet availability. Satellite internet can provide coverage to remote or rural areas without having to run miles of fiberoptic cable or construct new cell towers.
Like other satellite internet service providers, Starlink uses satellites to provide signal coverage over areas of the globe. However, Starlink service works differently in a couple of ways:
These differences take advantage of Starlink being part of SpaceX. SpaceX regularly conducts launches for a number of partners and also regularly launches additional Starlink satellites into orbit. Other satellite operators would likely find it cost-prohibitive to schedule regular repeated launches in order to continually expand the network of low-orbit satellites.
Starlink customers are impacted by the differences in the way Starlink service works compared to how other satellite internet providers work. The differences translate to consumer experience in these ways:
Access to Starlink service is still limited as coverage scales up. Overall, customers who can access Starlink service have reported faster download speeds than expected and lower latency than expected. Some users in regions with extreme temperatures may find challenges with current dish models, though the company reports working to increase dish resilience. Delivery times for service remain an estimate; Starlink service is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the company encourages prospective customers to secure a spot on the waitlist for their area.
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