SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is promising big things for his Starlink satellite internet service. While Starlink is just getting started, Musk tweeted (opens in new tab) that he expects the service's speeds to double later this year, going from 150 to 300Mbps.
Not only will speeds increase, but Musk claimed that latency — the time it takes for a signal to travel from its destination and back — will drop down to 20ms. If true, Starlink would be competitive with high speed cable internet.
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Starlink recently started a limited rollout of its satellite internet service. The appeal of satellite internet comes in its mobility. Because physical cable doesn't need to be laid, it's possible for people living in rural areas to get access to high speed internet.
Pre-orders for Starlink began earlier this month, and already users have been doing speed tests to much delight. Here's a speed test to which Musk replied:
Speed will double to ~300Mb/s & latency will drop to ~20ms later this yearFebruary 22, 2021
In this instance, latency is how long it takes for a signal to travel from a satellite in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and back. Because of how Starlink's constellation will work, it will eventually have 12,000 satellites circling the Earth at any given time. And being in LEO will mean less distance for signal to travel.
As for coverage, it's going to be a truly global network. But in a tweet, Musk clarified that Starlink will work best in areas with low to medium population density. For urban areas, cellular internet will always have an advantage. And of course, urban areas tend to have multiple internet service providers to choose from.
Most of Earth by end of year, all by next year, then it’s about densifying coverage. Important to note that cellular will always have the advantage in dense urban areas. Satellites are best for low to medium population density areas.February 22, 2021
Starlink will set users back $99 a month, and also requires a $500 up-front equipment cost. While this might seem high, Musk is aiming for this to be the first satellite internet constellation to not go bankrupt. SpaceX has also petitioned (opens in new tab) the FCC for cheaper plans for low income users. If approved, Starlink could offer service for as low as $9.25 per month. At the moment, users in the Northwestern U.S. and parts of Canada can sign up (opens in new tab) for the service, as well as in some select locations (opens in new tab).