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While it’s not the first company to test Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, Starlink is making waves in the telecom industry for its residential beta program launched in 2020. If successful, Starlink could help improve internet speeds and reliability for millions of Americans in remote and rural areas where traditional satellite internet providers haven’t been able to.
According to a tweet on January 15, 2022, as many as “1,469 Starlink satellites” are currently active, with 272 more currently in the process of moving towards operational orbits. However, those wanting to access Starlink internet may have to wait until late 2023 to actually try it out.
How Starlink Works
Though Starlink’s service may sound “out of this world,” the truth is that it’s not entirely different from other satellite internet providers like HughesNet or Viasat. Satellite internet is delivered to customers using satellite dishes that bounce signals between three points: the home, the provider, and a dish in space.
The biggest difference between traditional GEO satellites and Starlink’s LEO satellites is the distance they are from Earth.
GEO (Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit) satellites – which Hughesnet and Viasat use – float in orbit about 22,000 miles from the surface of the earth. On the other hand, LEO satellites float about 1,000 miles in orbit. Since they are much closer to Earth, the time it takes for internet signals to travel from a home satellite to one in space is significantly shorter. This is how Starlink is able to provide faster download speeds and lower latency than other satellite companies.
According to SpaceX, Starlink has more than 145,000 users in 25 countries across the globe. However, it’s only available in select regions in the United States, Canada, and certain areas abroad at this time. That said, its coverage map will only continue to expand with the launch of more operational satellites.
Additionally, Starlink noted its hopes to someday blanket the entire planet in usable, high-speed WiFi service that could completely revolutionize internet access. SpaceX is also forming deals with various airlines interested in installing Starlink service, per reports from Musk in October of last year.
Unfortunately, significant silicon shortages have caused delays in Starlink’s production of user terminals, impacting the company’s ability to fulfill customer orders. Because of this, Starlink has seen a noticeable decline in its service growth rate, and anyone looking to jump on the Starlink bandwagon may have to wait a while to get the necessary equipment.
Comparing Starlink Plans
While Starlink initially wanted to keep pricing and service options simple, its plans recently changed with the sudden introduction of a premium Starlink tier.
According to its website, Starlink Premium will offer consumers more than double the antenna capacity of Starlink and deliver satellite internet speeds. Specifically, Starlink Premium will provide users with a noticeable performance boost. Users can expect to receive internet speeds ranging between 150 to 500 Mbps, with a latency of only 20-40 ms, though 20 ms can be expected in most locations.
In contrast, Starlink’s basic plan provides speeds of only 100 to 200 Mbps with an average latency of approximately 45 ms. However, this plan has also been improved. Initially, users received internet speeds averaging between 50-150 Mbps. So, even if consumers don’t want to upgrade, they should still notice at least a minor uptick in their internet speed performance.
Aside from availability, the cost is the main deterrent for customers.
Cost of Starlink Installation
While the speed and performance differences between Starlink and Starlink Premium are holding many people’s attention, the price differences between the two services are liable to make most prospective consumers balk.
To officially get Standard Starlink internet service, customers must pay:
- An equipment cost of $499 (plus shipping and fees)
- A monthly cost of $99 for continued service
These prices are already considerable for many consumers looking for high-speed internet access. For comparison, many other internet providers like AT&T, Frontier, and Xfinity offer high-speed internet for under $50 per month. Now let’s take a look at Starlink Premium pricing.
Starlink Premium internet service requires:
- An equipment cost of $2,500 (plus shipping and fees)
- A monthly cost of $500 for continued service
- A $500 deposit to reserve their order before receiving any benefits.
Additional Starlink Features
While the costs of a Starlink Premium membership are exorbitant, experts and Starlink representatives note that the price will eventually come down as they get a better handle on the production of their technology.
Until then, Premium members can at least take comfort in knowing that they’ll be receiving a wide range of advantages for their choice to upgrade their system.
Starlink Premium users:
- Will receive improved internet performance in poor and extreme weather conditions
- Can access prioritized support from Starlink 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Are not hindered by the limitations of long-term contracts
- Do not have to worry about data caps or other exclusivity requirements
- Have bandwidth available for the most critical services, even if the network is under heavy use at any given time
- Have double the antenna capacity
- Can easily stream videos, game online, and work remotely in rural areas without latency or speed issues typically of satellite internet service
According to reports, SpaceX expects to start shipping out Starlink Premium equipment and activating services at some point during the second quarter (Q2) of 2022. You can stay updated on developments for Starlink internet plans by following our continued news coverage, or following Elon Musk on Twitter.
Other Rural Internet Options
Not everybody can afford a Starlink membership with its expensive tiers. Thankfully, there is a wide range of alternative rural internet options in remote areas.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over 99% of people in the US have access to at least 2 providers near them. The four most common rural connections include DSL, satellite internet, fixed-wireless, or dial-up.
Availability depends entirely on your location, which you can determine using our zip search tool. You can access all of the data you need to compare internet service providers near you and find the best choice for your family.
While the launch of Starlink’s Standard and Premium services is exciting, their cost and availability right now don’t make it very accessible to customers. We recommend getting on the waiting list now if you really want to try it as Musk himself says it won’t be able to pick up production again until late 2023.
If you need a solution in the meantime, we recommend checking out other reliable satellite and rural internet options available today. Depending on where you live, we can help you find the best internet deal near you.
Enter your zip code to see providers near you
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