Starlink’s Space Speed-Up: A Battle for Internet Leadership

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SpaceX’s Starlink microsatellite internet service now offers downloads of around 90.55 Mbps in the US, according to a recent analysis of Ookla. The speed test company reports that the median downlink speed in the first quarter of 2022 in the United States has “significantly increased” by 38%, compared to 65.72 Mbps in the first quarter of 2021.

Indeed, Ookla finds that Starlink offers some of the fastest satellite internet download speeds in the countries it operates in around the world. Analysts say Starlink offers median downlink transfers of 124.31 Mbps in Australia, 105.91 Mbps in Mexico and 100 Mbps+ in all European countries in which it offers services. More specifically, this service is designed for rural users rather than city dwellers.

Satellite performance compared to fixed broadband Internet in North America. (Source: Ookla) (Click on image to enlarge)

This means that Starlink should provide enough speed for streaming, gaming, and other tasks that rural users typically want to do. However, SpaceX still warns of service interruptions. The company said in an FAQ that it “constantly tries to improve Starlink service by expanding the Starlink satellite constellation with additional launches.”

On July 7, 53 new Starlink satellites lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, adding to the more than 2,500 satellites SpaceX currently has in orbit.

Billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in mid-May that Starlink has more than 400,000 subscribers worldwide. The satellite service currently operates in 36 countries around the world and plans to add new nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in 2023.

Satellite download speeds aren’t remotely as fast as the best cable services in major metropolitan areas or even the fastest 5G mobile carrier in the United States. As Ookla points out, however, this kind of service can be a revelation for users in the boondocks, who haven’t had access to fast internet.

“As we have continued to see over the past year, Starlink’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites provide a life-changing service to consumers in rural areas who otherwise would not have access to the Internet. broadband,” writes Ookla. “However, more and more companies are looking to compete with Starlink and launch their own LEO constellations, including Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which recently received FCC clearance to test its own satellite service and whose launch is expected later this year, and Viasat which is expected to merge with Inmarsat and launch new constellations by 2023.”

Starlink service isn’t cheap, costing $110 a month after buying and installing the $599 dish. In May, SpaceX added a portability feature for US users of Starlink service that allows customers to move their dish to another area of ​​the country for an additional $25 per month.

Mobile swarms

SpaceX service takes next big step in US The FCC just granted SpaceX authorization to use Starlink in many types of moving vehicles.

“We agree with SpaceX…that the public interest would benefit by conditionally granting their requests,” the FCC said in its approval order. “Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing demands of users who now require connectivity on the go, whether driving an RV across the country, moving cargo from Europe to a US port, or on a domestic or international flight.

The company has just added a maritime option for all types of shipping – from luxury yachts to oil rigs – to provide internet in the coastal waters of the Americas, Australia and Europe. now. The satellite link is activated by paying $10,000 for two terminals reinforced against sea salt to maintain the connection in rough seas and heavy storms. The service itself costs $5,000 per month.

In April, Hawaiian Airlines became the first major American airline in to log in use Starlink’s internet on their planes. Several other American airlines have also tested the service.

It’s likely that SpaceX will add more services for moving vehicles over time.

An ongoing 5G battle

Starlink is battling with Dish Network over plans to use 12GHz spectrum for a 5G network in the US, saying a 5G network at this frequency will render Starlink’s satellite internet connections “unusable” for the most part .

In a June 21 letter to the FCC, David Goldman, senior director of satellite policy at SpaceX, writes about Dish’s interference studies, warning that a 5G network would subject the satellite service to blackout 74% of the time. . “No reasonable engineer could believe that they represent honest interference analysis,” Goldman said.

Nearly 96,000 Starlink users have also signed up. online petition to the FCC protesting Dish’s plans.

On July 7, Dish hit back at SpaceX, saying the satellite company’s recent submission to the FCC was inaccurate.

“After submitting no expert technical input during the public comment and response comment periods in the proceedings, Starlink has only just submitted a self-produced policy document under the guise of technical analysis,” Dish et al. other members of the 5G for 12GHz Coalition replied. “This ‘study’, which was not carried out by an independent expert, is both scientifically and logically flawed.”

The coalition says Starlink’s study extrapolates a national result from a simulation it conducted in the Las Vegas area, the home of Dish’s first 5G market. The coalition says Vegas is nearly 10 times more unfavorable to 5G/satellite coexistence than the national average.

The group also claims that SpaceX “grossly exaggerates” the number of 5G base stations Dish would need to deploy to create a nationwide 5G network.

No doubt this catfight between Dish and SpaceX will continue for the time being.

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