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Starlink speeds are all over the map — here’s how the company is responding

Starlink review
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Starlink, Elon Musk's satellite internet company, has seen speeds dip in the past two months, but recently, performance has began to climb up. 

These results come via a report from PCMag in collaboration with speed test website Ookla. Recent data shows that the median download speeds for Starlink saw a decline from 80 Mbps to 50 Mbps between February and early March. The reason for the drop isn't entirely clear, but speeds have begun to normalize. 

Using Ookla isn't an exact science — not all Starlink users may check their internet speed with the service — but it can still be a decent indicator as to where things are. Ookla did not reveal to PCMag how many users it was pulling speed test data from, but "the sample count here well exceeds our brightline for statistical significance," a company spokesperson said.

Looking the graph below, we can see that in January, at launch, Starlink was giving solid performance, with speeds then slowly trailing off, only for performance to normalize at the end of March. 

Stralink speed graph provided by Ookla

(Image credit: Ookla)

It should be noted, that while we've reported on users with 200 Mbps of download speed or more, those might be more fringe scenarios and may not be indicative of overall performance. The Starlink megaconstellation is still young, with more satellites being launched every month. PCMag did reach out to a few Starlink users to get their take.

"The only thing consistent with Starlink service is the inconsistent speeds," said Tabitha from Idaho via an email to the publication. She preferred to keep her last name private. "I ran a speed test first thing this morning and saw 213Mbps down 9.72 up. A little over an hour later, I was at 94Mbps down/18 up. An hour after that I was at 36 down/6.8 up." 

Load could be the reason why there was a dip in performance. With more people signing up for the service, the larger customer base could have been straining systems. But it seems that a bug in the system might be to blame. 

SpaceX sent out an email to users explaining the current situation.

"Recently some beta users saw short but more frequent outages, particularly in the evening hours," SpaceX said. "This was caused by two main issues — preventive maintenance on various ground gateways, coupled with a network logic bug that intermittently caused some packet processing services to hang until they were reset. The good news is fixes were implemented and users should no longer see this particular issue."

After the firmware update, it does seem that Tabitha's internet speeds had improved.

Other users have also reported connection inconsistencies. Sometimes connection might drop for a few seconds all the way up to a few hours. 

The Starlink FAQ states "During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all."

In layman's terms, expect some growing pains. 

To remedy this, Starlink will issue an update that will more quickly ping to another satellite if connection drops. Users should expect this update later in the month.