Starlink U.S. Download Speeds Drop But Service Blasts Broadband Out Of The Park Globally 

Ramish Zafar
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell during a TED Talk in 2018. Image: TED

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Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Starlink satellite internet constellation's internet speed tests for the third quarter of last year reflect the service's expansion as it adds more customers and gradually builds out a constellation of thousands of small internet satellites. Data combined by Ookla, who is behind the popular internet speed test application Speedtest shows that as Starlink increased its active users in the third quarter of last year, the service's median speeds across the United States dropped, reversing the trend Q2 2021 had exhibited over the first quarter. However, users in other countries, such as Canada fared off better, in the wake of the service being available there as SpaceX continues to launch more spacecraft, with the latest launch having taken place yesterday evening.

Starlink Median U.S. Internet Speeds Drop By 10% In Q3 2021 Shows Speedtest Data

The details of Speedtest's latest report show that median Starlink download speeds across the U.S. stood at 87.25 Mbps during Q3 2021. When compared to the results from the same organization for the previous quarter, this marks for a 10% drop, as the median speeds stood at 97.23 Mbps in Q2 2021. Speedtest rightly speculates that the drop in download speeds can be a result of Starlink adding new customers as part of an aggressive campaign to build out its base to satiate both its competitors and investors, and prove to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that a strong demand is present for the satellite internet service.

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In the upload segment, Speedtest reports that data gathered across 304 American counties reveals that upload speeds stood at 13.54 Mbps, remaining relatively flat over Q2's data. However, despite the median download speed reducing, Starlink continued to vastly outstrip its satellite internet competitors Viasat and HughesNet. For them, the median download speeds stood at 18.75 Mbps and 19.30, respectively. In other words, they were slightly higher than the upload speeds exhibited by SpaceX's young internet service.

Starlnk median internet download speeds Q3 2021
Starlnk median internet download speeds Q2 2021

Starlink Vs Broadband Internet Speeds - SpaceX's Young Satellite Service Shames Broadband Services Globally

In addition to being vastly ahead in the download segment, Starlink also outshone its competitors in latency, as it managed posted results that stood closer to broadband internet service providers. Latency, which is the time taken for a packet of information to travel from and back to a user's device, is higher for the land-based broadband companies due to the propagation characteristics of their equipment and close proximity to the internet servers. According to Speedtest, average Starlink latency stood at 44 milliseconds (ms), which is orders of magnitudes lower than HughesNet and Viasat's 744 ms and 629 ms, respectively.

Moving elsewhere, Canadian Starlink users saw their median download speeds decrease slightly in Q3, standing in at 84.55 Mbps over the 86.92 Mbps in Q2. However, and crucially, it was in the same range as broadband download speeds, which stood at 90.21 Mbps for the latest quarter. The Q3 drop is expected according to Speedtest, who goes on to note that, "[t]his is in line with what we expect to see on new technologies as additional users are added to a system." Additionally, out of the nine Canadian provinces analyzed by Speedtest, Starlink was faster than broadband, with the sharpest difference being in Edward Islands, where the internet service had 118.02 Mbps in median download speeds, more than double the 46.86 Mbps for broadband.

It also outpaced broadband in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom. British Starlink users were able to achieve a median speed of 111.66 Mbps, which was not only higher than the Q2 speeds but also faster than broadband's 53.16 Mbps. Similarly, median speeds in New Zealand stood at 120.10 Mbps, while broadband clocked in at 84.98 Mbps.

Finally, Australian users also experienced more than two times the speeds delivered by broadband in the Southern Hemisphere. The broadband speeds stood at 51.17 Mbps, which were no where near Starlink's 138.12 Mbps median speeds. However, broadband latency stood at 10ms while Starlink was able to deliver 42 ms.

The data solidifies the case for global internet coverage made by SpaceX executives, and should serve Starlink well as it launches more satellites. SpaceX's president Ms. Gwynne Shotwell believes that the internet service is playing in a $1 trillion market, and Starlink just might be off to a strong start if these numbers hold over the years as more user flock to the service.

Here's more on Starlink download speeds and tests:

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