Starlink Is America’s Top Satellite Internet Service But With Limitations Reveals Data

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Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s (SpaceX) Starlink internet constellation can deliver Internet download and upload speeds that exceed other satellite-based service providers and shows data gathered by Ookla. SpaceX is gradually building its satellite constellation to consist of thousands of satellites. Starlink is the world's first Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to operate thousands of satellites for Internet connectivity.

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Ookla's report, which uses data from users data from Speedtest, provides median download, upload and latency speeds for Starlink. The internet service is currently in its beta stage and users all over the United States and Canada continue to test Starlink in this early rollout phase.

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As opposed to the average, the median of a dataset refers to the most common values present. It is often used to remove the variance caused by high and low scores, which influences the average, making it non-reflective of the numbers being studied.

According to Ookla, across the CONUS, Starlink's median download speeds vary from 40 Mbps in Oregon to 93 Mbps in California. The low end of this range is higher than the average speeds delivered by the service's two competitors, HughesNet and Viasat, according to data analyzed by PCMag.

However, the range does not include some of the highest Internet download speeds delivered by the service. So far, one of the of highest such results comes from Sonoma County in California, where a Wccftech reader reported a score of 200 Mbps. However, simultaneously, the user's speeds also dropped to 43 Mbps in another test. The higher scores are also attributable to a lack of congestion, as our reader was the only person in his neighborhood with a Starlink connection.

Ookla also notes that while in some places such as Tehama County, California, Starlink provided a staggering 545.6% improvement over fixed broadband providers, in others such as in Clay County, Missouri, it was 67.9% slower. This is because fixed broadband providers use land-based equipment to deliver internet connectivity, as opposed to Starlink, whose users connect with orbiting satellites through satellite dishes.

Starlink median download speeds across the Continental United States (CONUS). Image: Speedtest Intelligence

Ookla also shares some information for Starlink's latency. Latency is the time taken for an information packet to travel from and back to a user device such as a smartphone or computer, with lower indicating better results.

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According to the data shared, Starlink's median latencies range from 31 milliseconds in Washington State to 88 milliseconds in Michigan. These indicate lower performance than traditional fixed broadband providers but also significantly better performance than HughesNet and Viasat's latencies of 728 milliseconds and 643 milliseconds, respectively. The pair's scores are from a 2020 analysis conducted by PCMag.

Importantly for SpaceX, Ookla's data shows that the company is eligible to receive support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for providing internet to rural Americans. The company has built its narrative for Starlink around serving this need, and the data reveals that while no Starlink users were above the FCC's required performance baseline, the bulk (86.7%) met the lowest criteria of 25 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload and 100 milliseconds latency. Furthermore, the baseline speeds of 50 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload and 100 milliseconds latency were also met by a significant number of users.

To improve latency, SpaceX plans to launch new satellites capable of communicating with each other through lasers. The company has already launched a pair of these in orbit around Alaska, but it's unclear if subsequent, additional launches have taken place.

SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk has highlighted the negative effects of density on his company's internet constellation. In a tweet earlier this week, Mr. Musk stated that high densities in urban areas are a service limitation, but the half-million users that have currently signed up for the service would receive smooth coverage. In a live stream of its latest Starlink launch, SpaceX had revealed that it had received roughly 500,000 pre-orders for the internet service.

The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. NewAgeAds LLC has a disclosure and ethics policy.
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