SpaceX plans to offer affordable low latency, broadband internet worldwide. The company is initially targeting rural areas. – “With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” the company’s website states. The SpaceX Vice-President of Starlink and Commercial Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, shared last month that SpaceX started testing the network. He mentioned Starlink’s target latency will be 20 milliseconds (ms), and that engineers will work on decreasing it to 10ms. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says a latency of 20ms is responsive enough to play high-definition videos and competitive video games.
SpaceX customers will receive Starlink’s signal via 19-inch diameter user terminals that look like a ‘UFO on a stick’. – “I have deployed one on my house, it’s very exciting to get one,” Hofeller told reporters. “The instructions are super-easy. You plug it in, and you point it at the sky, and a few seconds later you have internet. It’s truly remarkable.”
During the private Starlink beta testing phase employees, friends, and family received early access to the Starlink terminal and router to assess the satellites in space. To date, there is around 595 internet-beaming Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. The company has not released details about how many of these are operational, in-use during the beta testing phase.
Anonymous Starlink Beta testers shared their internet speeds; compiled in a graphic via Reddit, pictured below. The beta testers used an online tool [speedtest.net] to test Starlink’s speed. The latency (Ping) rates between eight beta testers in Los Angeles, California ranged from 20ms to 94ms. And the download speeds varying from 11Mbps to 60Mbps, with upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps. Other Reddit users from Seattle, WA, later shared a speed test showcasing Starlink can reach the 20ms latency that company officials target.
The Starlink network is in its early development phase, the latency and speed of the service will improve and show consistency across users once more satellites are deployed. The network will consist of around 12,000 internet-beaming satellites in orbit. Company officials said that once the constellation reaches around 800 satellites, it will be capable of providing "moderate" coverage.
ArsTechnica previously reported, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had “serious doubts that any low-Earth orbit networks will be able to meet the short-form application requirements for bidding” to apply as a low-latency provider for the $16 billion in funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The FCC standard is latency under 100ms. SpaceX told the FCC in June that their skepticism is unjustified, and that its Starlink network “easily clears the commission's 100ms threshold for low-latency services, even including its 'processing time' during unrealistic worst-case scenarios,” company representatives said.
The Starlink speed tests Reddit users revealed this week, all showed latency below the 100ms threshold, which means SpaceX can prove to the Commission it could also join other internet providers in bidding for funding from the RDOF rural broadband program.
If these latency results are accurate then SpaceX should be in a good position to tap into funding from the FCC's $16 billion rural broadband program. https://t.co/SJeN1yK1KT— Sam Korus (@skorusARK) August 14, 2020
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.