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Will Starlink Replace All Internet Service Providers?

Starlink is an up-and-coming satellite internet service developed by a billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is also famously known for founding the electric car company Tesla or his space transportation service SpaceX. The keyword being used here is that it is a satellite internet service, so the question is can the satellite internet service beat all the internet service providers at their jobs (keep in mind that it is competing against fiber internet connection among others)?

On that note, if you are looking for a fiber internet connection, you must check Comcast’s Xfinity that is the most widely available internet service in the US at the moment. Xfinity internet plans include different deals, each providing internet services at different rates and connection speeds to match everyone’s budgeting criteria. The premium package has a downloading speed of 2Gbps, with uploading speed mirroring it, and that is the highest connection speed being offered in the US. However, if you are looking for something cheaper, the internet plans also include low-speed connections at reasonable rates.

Starlink in all its glory

Back to Starlink, after years of getting tested and applying for approvals, the first sixty satellites were launched into space in May 2019. They were successfully placed in their orbit at an altitude of 340 miles. Starlink has estimated that they will need to place 30,000 of these orbits into the satellite to send internet services to the rest of the world. The billionaire entrepreneur himself has stated that they expect to be able to send signals to the whole world by 2022. Currently, around 1,000 of the satellites are in space, serving around 10,000 customers in the northwestern US, Canada, and parts of the UK.

Providing internet service via the satellite

There are already existing satellite internet service providers in the US namely HughesNet or ViaSat and they are mostly focused on internet users in remote areas. However, their latency rates have been recorded at 724ms (connection speed at 19.73Mbps) and 630ms (18.13Mbps) respectively, which are mostly unusable for simple browsing purposes. Starlink’s latency rate has been found at 45ms (connection speed at 97.23Mbps), which is closer to the fix broadband’s 14ms latency rate. Plus Starlink orbits the Earth’s atmosphere at 550-1200km from the surface, whereas HughesNet and ViaSat are at 35,000km away. These major differences point towards Starlink being no competition towards other satellite internet service providers: Starlink has a faster internet speed and is more reliable.

Wired broadband VS. Starlink

Wired broadband includes fiber, cable, DSL, or even the dial-up internet connection. Among all these broadband connections, fiber internet connection is the fastest. A fiber network connection is delivered through fiber cables made of small, flexible glass strands which are much more reliable and durable than the copper coaxial cables that cable and DSL use. And this fast speed results in providing up to 1Gbps of internet connection, which is no match for 50Mbps of DSL connection or 500Mbps of cable internet connection.

Keeping in mind the connection speed of Starlink, Starlink still has a long way to go until it can beat fiber internet connection. Fiber’s highest latency rate is recorded to be at 17ms, which still doesn’t come close to Starlink’s latency rate of 45ms.

Weather interference

Starlink claims that their satellite dish is capable of operating in -30 to +40 degrees’ temperature and they are constantly upgrading their software to handle any sort of weather conditions. Weather conditions such as snowstorms have not been able to alter or disrupt Starlink’s internet connections as one of the subscribers has said that even in such a condition, he was getting a satellite internet connection at the speed of 150Mbps.  Another satisfied customer from Michigan said that his satellite internet connection was working just fine in the snow, with a speed of around 132Mbps. Engineers from Starlink have said that this is possible due to the dish’s self-healing capabilities to deal with different weather conditions. Unlike other satellite internet services, it seems Starlink’s satellite connection is capable of handling unpredictable weather conditions.

In conclusion, Starlink is still in beta mode and is limited to very few areas around the US and Canada, but it is sure to be a challenge for its wired broadband competitors. The goal of Starlink is to open up their internet service to every part of the globe and they have already received approval from authorities to operate more satellites around the Earth’s orbit. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that fiber internet connection is still preferred and reliable around the rest of the world since Starlink’s latency rate and internet connection speed are no match for fiber internet connection yet. Moreover, astronomers also have concerns about Starlink’s satellite interfering with their work since there are lots of them zooming around there.