Service during the beta test focused on Southern Canada and the Northern United States. After weeks of hands-on testing as part of the Starlink beta program, the technology now represents an upgrade of alternatives hundreds of times faster than DSL with a maximum download speed of 200 Mbps.

Hundreds of thousands eager for opportunity

In early May, Musk announced that SpaceX had received more than half a million orders for its satellite internet service, which is offered in more than just rural areas.

For the first time in our rural Vermont location, email is downloaded in a second and we can stream movies without looking at a “buffering” icon every few minutes. We also conducted Facetime, WebEx, and Zoom video conferencing and tested countless data-intensive tasks, such as updating a computer operating system and playing online games. It all worked out well with some conditions.

Speeds varied greatly from about 28 Mbps to 200 Mbps. Satellites with low earth orbits move, so the Starlink plate and motorized software must track them constantly, which may be one reason for some of the discrepancies. Moreover, the Starlink connection often drops for no apparent reason, abruptly interrupting what was until then a perfect Skype call.

These are the hallmarks of an early beta test, and Starlink admitted so much to subscribers in a recent newsletter. As the company sends more satellites up, the company expects reliability to improve.

Viasat, a satellite internet provider based in Carlsbad, California, which started offering the service in 2009, has opposed the large number of internet satellites, especially since SpaceX is now asking the FCC to authorize 30,000 more for itself. Among his objections are the potential for space debris or damaged satellites falling to Earth. The FCC has not made a decision on SpaceX’s claim.

The cost of advance equipment exceeds $ 500

The Starlink package costs $ 499 for satellite dish and Wi-Fi router. Transportation and taxes set the initial total at $ 581.94, which does not include $ 99 per month for service. This sounds expensive, but slower satellite service can cost more.

The Starlink system is relatively simple to set up. Push the plate pole onto a supplied tripod, find an open sky section to target, wind the cable into the included Wi-Fi router, and turn it on. The plate is motorized to adjust automatically and heats up to keep it clean of snow and ice. People living in forested mountainous areas may find it more difficult to find that open part of the sky so that their plate can detect satellite coverage.

HughesNet satellite internet starts at $ 59.99 and records data at 10 gigabytes (GB) per month at a maximum speed of 25 Mbps. Price increases to $ 149.99 per month for 50 GB at top speed. After that, the download speed decreases.

This is not a lot of data. If you watch four two-hour movies from Netflix in 4K, you will exceed the 50 GB limit. Ultra-high definition video streaming can use up to 7 GB of data per hour, says Netflix.

Starlink has no data limits. HughesNet requires a two-year contract; Starlink has none. And the modem rent from HughesNet is another $ 14.99 a month or $ 449.98 if you buy it in full.

Astronomers worry about light pollution

Starlink’s plans have generated more controversy than from its competitors. The first complaints came from astronomers and amateur stars who pointed out that light pollution from low-orbit satellites reflecting sunlight interfered with the telescope’s observations.

SpaceX has tried various solutions, including a VisorSat, that uses a black shadow to reduce light reflection. How effective it is remains to be seen.

With thousands of satellites eventually expected to orbit in low-Earth orbit, Starlink recently struck a deal with NASA to avoid future collisions with spacecraft such as the International Space Station. Starlink will automatically maneuver its satellites to avoid any collisions, NASA will not move its equipment so it will not create more problems and Starlink will report any planned launches to NASA.

There are more low-orbit satellite services:

  • Amazon, based in Seattle, received permission from the FCC in 2020 to launch what it calls Project Kuiper to provide rural Internet access. In April, Facebook relocated more than a dozen members of its wireless internet team to Amazon to work on the project.
  • OneWeb, based in London, expects to open the service to business and government clients in the Arctic by the end of 2021.
  • Telesat, based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, plans to bring similar services to maritime customers.

China also has at least two companies, Hongyun and Galaxy Space, with their low-Earth orbit initiatives in that country.

So far, low-orbit satellites can solve the problem of providing high-speed Internet access in remote areas. Government agencies are looking at the solution with a pilot test of the Starlink system scheduled for this year in Allen Township, Ohio. The area west of Marysville is home to Honda’s Marysville vehicle factory.

The number of people working remotely during the pandemic has accelerated the demand for high-speed internet access in rural areas. But a challenge remains: Can this demand reduce costs for all those who want faster service as they see in cities and suburbs?