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Starlink’s LEO Satellite Broadband Speeds to Reach 300Mbps

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 (8:40 am) - Score 7,464
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The CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, has revealed that the on-going expansion of Starlink‘s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based broadband satellites will, by the end of this year, push customer download speeds up to around 300Mbps and bring network latency down to around 20ms (milliseconds). A cheaper budget package is also planned.

At present SpaceX has already launched well over 1,000 LEOs into orbit (space) around the earth and their initial ambition is to deploy a total of 4,425 by 2024, which could potentially be followed by up to 12,000 at a later date (possibly late 2026). The service has already gone live in the USA, Canada, UK and is now extending into other parts of Europe, albeit mostly still in the beta phase but you can also pre-order it.

NOTE: Starlink’s beta service currently has around 10,000 customers, but it aspires to support several million.

The LEOs sit at a very low altitude and can thus deliver fast latency times (Starlink states a range of 20-40ms – roughly akin to FTTC lines), as well as downloads of between 50-150Mbps and uploads of c.20Mbps. All with unlimited data usage. So far this has been proven by the on-going beta test, albeit without much network congestion for customers to worry about (yet) and some service outages (due to be fixed as the network grows).

The catch is that you need lots of LEOs to deliver good performance and coverage, which makes the network very expensive to deploy and thus the beta service costs £89 per month, plus £54 for shipping and £439 for the kit. But the good news is that Elon Musk now expects some positive price and performance changes to come by the end of 2021.

Musk told Twitter yesterday that he expects customer speeds will “double to ~300Mb/s” and latency will “drop to ~20ms” later this year. The company’s CEO added that he expected most of the world to be covered by the end of 2021 (commercial launch) and after that the focus would be on densification (i.e. adding more satellites boosts speeds and reliability).

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, added:

“[Starlink will cover] most of Earth by end of year, all by next year, then it’s about densifying coverage.

Important to note that cellular [mobile] will always have the advantage in dense urban areas. Satellites are best for low to medium population density areas.”

Meanwhile Starlink has also petitioned the FCC for the ability to offer an extremely cheap budget package for those on lower incomes, which could cost just $9.25 (£6.60) per month for broadband or $5.25 (£3.70) per month for a phone-only (VoIP) service. But crucially there’s no mention of what usage allowances or service speeds would apply to this (you can bet on some restrictions at that price). The cost of hardware is another issue.

Overall, it’s another positive development for Starlink, but the real test – both economically speaking and in performance terms – will be in how the network copes when placed under the demands of a million customers or more. But of course, Starlink has already talked about developing a 10Gbps (per user) capable service in the future (here), so they clearly intend to adapt.

At this point it’s worth considering that, assuming Starlink is successful in its business model (too early to tell), then their service may also place some competitive pressures on alternative fixed line fibre network builds in rural areas. But much of that may depend upon whether or not the monthly cost stays high or comes down in the future, as at present £89 would be considered too expensive by many UK users.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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70 Responses
  1. adslmax says:

    What the point of this? FTTP is a win win!

    1. JP says:

      Seriously…. You need to start thinking before hammering that keyboard.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      @adslmax. You missed the words “if you can get it,” which is the point you’ve overlooked.

    3. André says:

      @JP
      Thank you for your comment, that was my first chuckle of the day 😀

    4. AQX says:

      I think Max has overlooked more than just “if you can get it” and more just common sense.

    5. JP says:

      @André – Yeah I need a new day job, not sure comedian is the one but I’ll take what i can get 🙂

    6. Peter Sedgwick says:

      FTTP is not rolling out very fast and is falling behind when it comes to sustainability.
      Digging up streets and the countryside is getting a bit old with the advances in tech around wireless delivery

    7. Anna says:

      @Peter

      I am having it installed and it’s using BT’s ducts so they don’t need to do anything but put the fibre down – or so I am told..

    8. Paul M says:

      I would have fibre to the house, but I live on the wrong side of the street, the other side do get it. So frustrating to be only 8m from a fibre splice node! It would cost me £6000 in the first year to get fibre for the installation with the high first years’s service charge, after that the price drops to sensible pricing of about £50/month for a 500M download service.

    9. looking to spacex says:

      im stuck 2km from kilwinning on an long past its best copper line tied right back the central exchange and no amount of begging yes begging through isp’s or ofcom.. all i get is adsl at 3mb on a good day when its not windy. ive been shown the terminated fibre in a hole 200m from my home. but opeanreach keep saying there no demand in the village for faster speeds so ive paid my deposit for starlink and will suck up the cost just to be free of openreach and daily family and work trauma. its carp being in the last 10% non rural homes deemed to be expensive not profitable to be bothered about even for fttp

    10. Clint says:

      Does anyone know if the new import tax and duties rules will impact the cost of the hardware considerably? I don’t think the hardware is coming from Europe but the price quoted doesn’t mention anything about whether it includes duties and taxes, which I thought non-UK companies now had to provide at the point of purchase if they want to sell in the UK.

  2. Ryan says:

    For the ignored areas of the UK I can see it having an appeal definitely even at 100mb speed, so this news is great. Let’s hope the cost comes down to a more manageable price point!

    Anything to rock the open reach monopoly is a good thing.

    1. Jonathan Heath says:

      I absolutely agree. This is a fantastic opportunity for those areas which are deemed hard to reach.
      Even in cities, this is a huge step.
      I accept latency might be an issue for gamers but for other users, this is acceptable and workable.
      It will be interesting to see how OneWeb can compete.
      It also adds pressure for the incumbents to up their game and deliver with added pace.

    2. André says:

      If I were BT I wouldn’t feel threatened. Quite the opposite, the existence of Starlink to cover the hard-to-reach areas just takes away the political pressure for BT to make expensive deployments that will never see a ROI.
      Starlink is not designed to compete in urban-dense areas.
      There is room for incumbents and Starlink to coexist 🙂

    3. Jonathan Heath says:

      Maybe Andre, but the UK is a price sensitive marketplace. If there is sufficient price elasticity, and more additional new entrants, then the USP becomes service and reliability.
      So, I agree in the short term, BT would not feel threatened but as OneWeb compete (especially with Government cash), and Starlink deploy more satellites, then I can see price decreasing. This then becomes more of an issue for BT.
      Musk always takes the long term view on investments as well.

    4. M says:

      It’s one of the worst ideas for internet access that exists. For many reasons.

    5. André says:

      @M
      Care to make some sort of cogent argument to support your opinion?
      (with which, by the way, I disagree)

    6. Marek says:

      Starlink won’t be available in cities due to limited bandwidth, why are you writing about that?

    7. Buggerlugz says:

      Agreed. It’ll be a sad day though when Elon’s system is actually capable of providing better speeds 24/7 than all the UK’s mobile networks and compete with them on price. But I can see that day coming.

    8. Marek says:

      That won’t happen at any point in future, just like mobile networks haven’t replaced wired broadband.

    9. t4n0n says:

      @Marek My 4G broadband connection (on Three) is not only roughly two times that of the available FTTC (~40Mbps vs ~20Mbps) but also less than half the price. I doubt they’ll ever install fibre to the property here either, as it’s a semi-rural residence and so won’t likely ever be eligible for special funding.

      I’d 100% consider it a complete replacement for VDSL, if it weren’t for the slightly higher latency.

  3. Mark K says:

    There are some niche markets where this solution will be snapped up. A majority of ships around the world already use satellite communication for voice and data communication but with super high costs (read ££££’s per month) for low bandwidth and high 600ms+ latency.

    1. André says:

      I believe at the moment each user is limited to a specific “cell”.
      I’m sure that’ll change eventually but the current beta doesn’t allow for mobile use.

    2. Name says:

      Ships are using Inmarsat and unlikely will switch to low end solutions for masses like Starlink

    3. André says:

      “Low end”?
      What does Inmarsat offer that Starlink can’t do better?

    4. Name says:

      Yes, low end. Inmarsat already covers entire world and needs just one satellite to cover one third of it. Also Inmarsat satellite life span is much longer and operates on all three major bands. This is different product for different customers.

    5. Marty says:

      ‘Name’ – Sorry but your points are all unrelated to the needs of a ship. They want low latency, high bandwidth available at a lower price. I do not care if it’s one satellite covering the area or 1000, Ku/Ka/C band, the end result is what matters.

    6. NeilM says:

      The US Air force and Army are looking at.

      They always want more bandwidth and with suitable end to end encryption, this will serve their needs, with laser connectivity between satellites, it will also provide high levels of redundancy.

      So, if it’s good enough for them, I imagine some of the shipping companies will be happy to use. However shipping will need to be using the service once (if) the inter satellite lasers are up and running, since in the middle of the sea, there is not going to be a ground station nearby.

      Side note – I mentioned this on a comment last week, about the fact that the technology of the satellites will adapt, this is comment from the wiki.

      SpaceX is preparing for the production of Starlink v1.5 and v2.0 satellites in 2021. How these versions differ from v1.0 has not been made public as of January 2021.

      https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/28/spacex-plans-next-generation-starlink-satellites-with-1000-launched.html

      All good fun eh? 🙂

    7. Name says:

      No Marty, ships don’t need high bandwidth with low latency and they have everything already in place (weather proof, etc.)

    8. Marek says:

      Starlink can’t be used in ships that are far away from shore, same thing for planes…

    9. André says:

      @Marek
      Wy do you say that? And even if that is the case now, why do you think it’ll be the case in the future as well?

    10. Marek says:

      Because that’s how system works, only expections are north/south pole and Alaska, most northern parts of Canada. I don’t think this won’t really change in near or far future.

    11. Marty says:

      @Name. Sorry but you out of touch and may not have necessary experience in IT to comment on this correctly. VSAT (Geo) bandwidth can cost $5k/month for a 2Mb connection. Starlink will offer 10x the speed for a $99/month. Crew want to stay in touch with family via video calls and have a similar internet experience that they do at home.

    12. Marty says:

      @Marek – Incorrect, Starlink are adding communications between satellites via laser that will allow data to reach a ground station.

    13. Mark K says:

      @Marty – I agree with you, based on real world experience and day to day challenges working with vessels. There is always a need for increased bandwidth and lower latency, not only from an operational prospective but from an end customer prospective. Customers on ferries / cruise ships expect Wi-Fi wherever they go which translates to expensive solutions. You can’t have 500 – 1000 customers onboard ships sharing a few Mbps of satellite bandwidth. Satellite bandwidth is complimented, through pure necessity, by 4g costal roaming solutions where possible. Operationally, more and more systems onboard require ship to shore communication. The changing nature of how we work in the modern workplace (example migration of Office365 and cloud computing in general) will be forced on to ships as on-prem solutions are removed and no longer supported. Tankers and freight only vessels require less bandwidth but the requirements increase every year. A big reduction in latency would also solve many problems. Crew welfare is very important and providing connectivity to allow video and chat to family is vital. Some crew are away from family for weeks or sometimes months at a time. There will always someone or something requiring bandwidth. If Starlink can provide more bandwidth, reduced latency for less money there will be businesses jumping on it!

  4. anon446464 says:

    This is fantastic news if true, so far I’ve heard the speed is pretty variable, if they get get a constant 100-200mbpsm with low latency that would be great for most people.

  5. anon446464 says:

    I get 50mbps via FTTC for £30 p/m on Cuckoo Broadband. I hope they can offer something for somewhere in the region of £40-60 p/m, for a faster connection.

    1. Winston Smith says:

      I can’t see them competing on price with fixed line broadband. It will probably remain a premium service for those with no other options.

    2. JP says:

      It will serve a purpose and that’s about it, with international coverage it would be silly not to offer it in as many locations as possible.

      It will however be interesting to see what sort of commercial role it could play, I was pretty suprised recently to see a mobile mast just outside of Birmingham using a satellite link for back haul, even if no longer in use it was at some point in the recent years and considering the dense network around it.

    3. New_Londoner says:

      @JP
      Are you sure that it was a satellite connection and not a microwave dish?

    4. JP says:

      It was definitely a satellite dish.

    5. mary joan says:

      Cuckoo will never get faster than FTTC. They designed to keep FTTC and low budget with no contract.

    6. JP says:

      mary – cuckoo will see whatever they can sell, got to remember that fttp is sold at same wholesale prices as fttc, just more options available.

  6. M says:

    Don’t like this idea at all. Thousands of satellites to be launched in space affecting optical telescopes of all sizes, and astronomers have already had some of their work ruined by them. They are all in low orbit and once all of them are launched they will give you the impression of the night sky ‘crawling’ to the naked eye. But their is no law or regulation against that, neither is there against advertising in space and companies are looking into that too, fancy a giant Coca Cola advert in your night sky?
    And that’s ignoring the environmental impact of all the junk these satellites add to in orbit around the planet, of which currently no solution to exists.
    Space X has said it is working with a select small group of astronomers to find a solution, but currently that involves using special pain on one or two satellites out of every 60 or so they launch, so the negative effects will still be huge at the end of the day.

    Plus the fact a satellite connection isn’t reliable, and it’s prohibitively expensive, and your have no competition in the market, I be,I’ve one U.K. company and Space X are the only ones? It’s IMO an unfair excuse to not provide those in rural areas with proper broadband solutions. The old I’m alright Jack don’t care about you analogy.

    A leak has stated for Starlink it’ll cost you around £450 for the equipment, you have to set it up, and then it’s around £90 a month subscription.

    1. hhhh says:

      Agree with some of your points however regarding the junk part, these sattelites are designed to automatically de-orbit themselves once approaching end of life and will burn up.

      https://observer.com/2020/10/spacex-starlink-satellite-collision-risk-space-debris/

    2. The Moaner says:

      There are hundreds of thousands of man made and natural objects in LEO. The moaning astronomers cherry picked pictures of the launches when the satellites were all in close formation, not their final orbital positions. A lot of fluff about nothing

    3. M says:

      @hhhh interesting if it works, did you read the part where it states the satellites are basically flying junk for 5 years after they die before their orbit degrades. So they are still dangerous space junk.
      Plus you have all the other parts of junk that’s created form the launches, bits of metal etc, doesn’t go anywhere other then sit in orbit and become a threat to other satellites etc.

    4. M says:

      @The Moaner, do you have any proof of these ‘hundreds of thousands’ of objects in LEO? According to this there are 400 large low orbit satellites, Starlink alone will add 12,000, and Amazon and others are looking to launch there own constellations. So that number will grow.

    5. Vince says:

      Not sure what “leak” you’re referring to as the pricing is entirely public. £439 for the equipment, £54 for shipping and £89/month currently.

      As for reliable, Satellite is very reliable – and these being closer will only improve that, plus the sheer number and scale. So I suspect you’ll find “reliability” isn’t a problem.

      Speeds right now 50-150 down, and most people tell me they get in the region of 20 up, with 20-40ms latency – and SpaceX announced they plan to have download up to 300 down by the end of the year.

    6. m says:

      @Vince, I can’t find the leak now, I read it before this site and others reported the official pricing, I’m not sure if the leak was relating to the beta price or the price after the beta. Also 30 to 40ms is pretty much useless for gaming and possibly other tasks too. I get 10ms on my connection. And satellite BB is notoriously unreliable being affected by atmospheric conditions. Even some in here proclaiming a huge range in speeds is seen on the service. Compared to a physical connection it’s not very good and not a solution.

  7. Neb says:

    Assuming the ping, jitter, download and upload speeds are real world… DCMS should shelve the outside in subsidies and instead wait a year or so for OneWeb/Starlink to provide the service – probably be faster than starting to deploy BDUK subsidised FTTP this year and likely cheaper and environmentally friendly in the long run (note, we don’t live in the countryside)… then again solar flares, storms and world powers in space… carry on FTTP builders.

    1. Winston Smith says:

      In what sense is launching thousands of satellites (with a lifetime of around 5 years) into low earth orbit environmentally friendly?

    2. Marek says:

      Starlink will be servicing 3 to 4 percent of population…

  8. Damonn says:

    I live on a new build estate which is an on going development. Phase 1 was completed in 2018 and FTTC is not enabled, therefore the best broadband available is around 10mb Download Speed and 1mb Upload Speed. Woefully inadequate, leaving me with no option accept 4G which requires line of sight to the mast in a densely populated area. The phase 2 of the site which has completed 2020 all have 1000mb FTTP Broadband due to some legislation that requires new builds to provide better broadband. These houses are precisely over the road on the other side of the street although Open Reach say the infrastructure isn’t in place to enable FTTP to phase 1 and that it would have to be a Crowdsourcing project by neighbours to fund it, this clearly isn’t true as the existing cabinet for the old estate is within spitting distance and the latest development all have FTTP. Elon Musks broadband is too expensive at £89 per month plus cost of dish and postage bringing it nearer to £600 just to get set up plus then the ongoing cost of £89 month. Open reach claims the infrastructure isn’t in place and needs to be crowd funded feels like extortion.
    I welcome Starlink but I assume I’ll have a 5G solution cheaper before then.

    1. Marek says:

      Most likely you won’t be able to use Starlink.

    2. New_Londoner says:

      @Damonn
      If broadband is so important to you, why didn’t you ensure that the developers were providing adequate bandwidth to your property before agreeing to purchase? As the site is still expanding, have you approached the developers to contribute towards the cost of retrofitting infrastructure to your phase of the site?

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      I’ll be impressed if any of your neighbours can get 1gb FTTP for £89 per month.

    4. Damonn says:

      @buggerlugz Ultrafast full fibre, with speeds of up to 1Gbps is available on the new part of the estate, completed 2020, just not on the part 1, completed 2018 where only standard copper broadband is available.
      It is available cheaper than the £89 per month for Star Link for standard Fibre broadband prices. I’m paying £32 per month for ADSL. I’m sure over the road are getting 1gbs for that. Open reach are charlatans for attempting to extort money from neighbours to fund/crowdsource full fibre broadband when the infrastructure is already available

    5. Damonn says:

      @New_Londoner I wish I had realised that the new build might not have full fibre broadband before I purchased however I did not consider that may be a possible outcome. What gets me is that Open Reach said in one email they can see that the infrastructure is in place and that they just need to enable it. However an error message was preventing them from doing so. And later another email informed me that the reason my neighbours could get Full Fibre was because they were a part of a new estate. Implying that I was not, even though I am.? Starlinks prices are disappointing at best, this is because of being prevented by a third party to provide cheaper more accessible broadband.

    6. 125us says:

      Developers lay the infrastructure on new builds and then Openreach (or whomever) adopt it – the same model as with roads and the other utilities. If there’s no infrastructure then the developer who built your house didn’t do their job at the time of building.

  9. Asad Mehmood says:

    Just been sent an invite to pre-order in Birmingham.
    Cost: £439 hardware + £54 shipping + £89/month

    It says speeds will vary from 50-150Mbps with 20-40ms latency

    1. Damonn says:

      I got my invite I just don’t agree with the cost, I could get standard ADSL and 4G for less (by about £40 cheaper) So they will have to do better than that (£89pm) plus costs

    2. Yoda says:

      @Damonn

      You get what you pay for.

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      “You get what you pay for” is a cop out at best. I prescribe to the “you get a service you pay for” and if it doesn’t deliver on your expecations then you’ve every right as a customer to complain about it.

  10. King says:

    I got a beta invite for it in N.Ireland but it’s way to expensive. £89 a month, £439 setup, £89 delivery charge.

  11. Oli says:

    I had registered for Starlink (because I could) and yesterday I got an email to place the order via their website.

    If I was living in some remote area then I would definitely go for this but I live in the city (Near Heathrow).

    The initial cost is more than £500 but anybody who is living in a remote place looking for decent broadband speeds, this looks more appealing.

    1. Web Guy says:

      I agree, for many rural locations it may be the best option for those who can either a) afford it or b) justify/ need it.

      Some families, and smallish (but lucrative) businesses, have moved to more rural locations but find terrestrial solutions too slow.

      They have spent thousands or tens of thousands on audio+video systems so would likely jump at the chance of using this.

  12. Anna says:

    The price seems OK but they say up to 6 months to get it going – and price seems OK too but who knows what it will be like in 6 months?

  13. Fred says:

    Had been stuck with really poor broadband for years. 4g is very marginal with directional antenna, ADSL is ~3Mbps here. Luckily we relatively recently got FTTP via Truespeed and that is great. However, I would have jumped at this if True speed was not here and it was my only sensible option. This will be a godsend for many remote properties. Sure, not that cheap bit if it is your only option….

  14. Paul M says:

    living at the end of a long phone line, I plonked down the £90 refundable deposit just 40 mins after getting the email telling me I was eligible.

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