SpaceX Starlink: Price, speed, availability for Elon Musk's internet service
SpaceX's Starlink internet service has been widely praised in recent months after the company's CEO, Elon Musk, redirected satellites over Ukraine to help civilians keep connected following Russia's invasion.
That doesn't paint the whole picture though, as the astronomical community, and even NASA, have warned of the potentially dangerous impact of satellite mega-constellations on our ability to conduct astronomical research.
Setting aside all the news surrounding Starlink, SpaceX, and CEO Elon Musk, how does the service fair as a practical, accessible tool for high-speed internet connectivity? Here's a beginner's guide for anyone considering taking the plunge.
1. How much does Starlink cost?
Starlink costs $110 per month, though users will have to pay a one-time $599 equipment fee before receiving their satellite dish and router. Prices should be the same in every country, though they can vary slightly due to taxes and shipping costs.
It’s meant to be the same price in all countries. Only difference should be taxes & shipping.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 9, 2021
SpaceX also recently added a Starlink RV feature for an additional $25 a month. This allows users to quickly pause their internet when on the move and unpause it when they reach a new location.
At the time of writing, Starlink isn't available on the go, though that may come fairly soon. Musk recently tweeted that "Starlink does work on vehicles in motion, including planes, but not yet reliably." SpaceX does have deals in place with both Hawaiian Airlines for in-flight WiFi and the Royal Caribbean Group for internet on their cruise ships.
2. Where is Starlink available now?
SpaceX announced in May that Starlink is available in a total of 32 countries and that it is working on vastly expanding its availability.
Starlink is now available in 32 countries around the world. People ordering from areas marked “available” will have their Starlink shipped immediately → https://t.co/slZbTmHdml pic.twitter.com/CecM1pkf5D— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 13, 2022
You can see where Starlink is available here on SpaceX's website. And here's a list specifying where the service is available.
- Large parts of the U.S.
- Southern Canada
- Puerto Rico
- Northern Ireland
- The Republic of Ireland
- Southern Australia
- New Zealand
Many have pointed out that Starlink isn't available in some of the most populated parts of the U.S. Musk recently said the Bay Area in San Francisco was saturated with user terminals and he has also previously suggested the priority is to connect people outside of densely populated urban areas to provide high-speed internet access where it wasn't available before.
3. Will Starlink be available in my country soon?
According to Starlink's availability map, all of northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Iceland, as well as Norway, Sweden, and Finland will have Starlink availability starting in Q1 2023.
SpaceX also says all of South America, excluding Venezuela, will receive Starlink coverage either later this year or by Q1 2023. Northern Australia is another vast region that will receive coverage in Q1 2023.
If all goes to plan, the continent of Africa, which currently does not have any coverage, will have continent-wide Starlink availability by 2023. There are also plans for Turkey, India, Mongolia, and a number of other countries to also join the ranks in 2023. More details can be seen on Starlink's interactive map on its website.
4. What speeds can you expect with Starlink?
To date, Starlink provides the fastest satellite internet in the world, according to a recent analysis by Seattle-based internet performance testing firm Ookla.
The analysis also showed that, from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, median download speeds increased almost 58 percent in Canada — from 61.84 Mbps to 97.40 Mbps — and 38 percent in the U.S. — from 65.72 Mbps in Q1 2021 to 90.55 Mbps.
It is worth noting though that upload speeds for Starlink decreased roughly 33 percent in the U.S. — 16.29 Mbps in Q1 2021 to 9.33 Mbps in Q1 2022 — and were at least 36 percent slower in Canada — 16.69 Mbps to 10.70 Mbps — in that same time frame.
Impressively, in Europe, SpaceX's internet service achieved a median download speed of 100+ Mbps in every country in Europe where it's commercially available. It also beat fixed broadband download speeds in every country — where available — except for Spain.
5. Starlink astronomy concerns
Scientists, astronomers, and even NASA officials have raised concerns over the propagation of Starlink and other satellite mega-constellations.
Bright streaks caused by moving satellites have ruined many observations, and NASA has warned the satellites could impede "our planet's ability to detect and possibly redirect a potentially catastrophic impact" from a previously undetected near-Earth asteroid.
In an interview with IE, astronomer Samantha Lawler explained that the effect of mega-constellations on her observations has been "horrible" to see. While she didn't suggest consumers should boycott the service, she thinks Starlink customers, and the scientific community, should make sure their voices are heard.
"If consumers tell SpaceX to prioritize protecting the night sky, maybe they'll listen," Lawler told IE. "They have incredible engineers on their team, and the situation can definitely still be improved with better engineering."
6. Who are Starlink's competitors?
Amazon just penned a new agreement for 83 launches for its Project Kuiper internet satellite constellation in what it calls "the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history." It's worth noting that, although Amazon and Verizon have been granted FCC approval to launch a total of 3,236 LEO satellites, Amazon has yet to send its prototype satellites into orbit, meaning it has a long way to go before catching up with SpaceX.
SpaceX, meanwhile, recently reached a spectrum agreement with one of its competitors, OneWeb, with both companies asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to forget all past disputes.
With Starlink 2.0 already in the works, SpaceX's rivals certainly have a lot of catching up to do. More competition will hopefully drive down prices for consumers, though it could also make things a whole lot more difficult for the astronomical community.
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