Starlink is one of Elon Musk’s brainchildren, this time designed to help underserved areas get access to higher quality and more reliable internet services.
Opinions on the project have ranged widely, from skepticism that satellite-based internet service would ever be able to effectively compete with fiber to hopes that Starlink could be a serious competitor that will force other ISP companies to lower prices and/or improve service options.
But does Starlink really work, and is it disrupting existing internet service providers?
Starlink Internet, Speeds, Availability, Function
Starlink is a project funded and overseen by Space X. Unlike traditional satellite Internet services, Space X and Starlink provide low latency connection by placing a satellite network in low earth orbit. The difference in distance between a Starlink satellite and a traditional satellite internet provider is enough to significantly cut latency and transmission time.
That requires more satellites, and Starlink is still launching satellites, though they recently canceled a planned launch of 50.
Speed-wise, Starlink currently offers between 100mbps and 200mbps download speeds and has growing availability, particularly in rural areas and other underserved communities.
However, their waitlist is long, it can take months to get the equipment, and Starlink regularly stops accepting new customers while they work on building the infrastructure needed to support them.
Overall, the service is good, but it’s definitely geared toward the residential internet market more than the business market, and the project has some serious barriers to overcome if they want to be a serious global ISP competitor.
What Challenges Does Starlink Still Face?
Starlink’s system is proven, and there are enough happy customers to make it clear that the internet is good and people are ready to switch to a provider that offers faster speeds and lower latency. There are a lot of underserved communities that can really benefit from an ISP like Starlink.
So why isn’t Starlink dominating internet service providers, at least in the areas it’s available?
There are a few reasons.
For one thing, the startup cost for Starlink internet might make you double-take. The one-time equipment fee is several hundred dollars, which may put this kind of internet connection out of reach for many of the underserved people Starlink wants to help and needs to cultivate to compete with other rural service providers.
Self-installation is easy but may be a deterrent for customers that are less tech-savvy or nervous about damaging expensive equipment during installation.
But the biggest barrier is probably that Starlink is having to deal with far more demand than it can handle right now, and long waitlists for people to get the services they need.
Other problems, like slowdowns during bad weather, maybe inevitable for satellite internet and don’t seem to pose much of a problem for the project.
There is still a lot of interest out there for Starlink, especially in newly enabled communities, but the project has a long way to go before it reaches the revolutionary heights some people hoped for.
What Does Starlink Internet Mean For You Or Your Business?
As a private individual, it might be worth looking to see if Starlink is available in your area. Prices might seem a little steep at first, but the quality of services is roughly comparable to what we’re getting from other major ISPs right now. Customers moving from a traditional ISP to Starlink would be a good incentive for ISPs to try and improve services and prices.
A more competitive market can only be a good thing for consumers.
Starlink does also offer business services, but the upfront costs and bandwidth might make it less attractive for typical business owners.
That said, businesses operating in rural and underserved communities might stand to benefit as much or more as local residents when Starlink becomes available.
Plus, since Starlink is hoping to avoid data caps on their services, businesses and individuals may also have more freedom in how they use the internet, as well as its speed.
Overall, Starlink might not be a major disruptive force in the entrenched ISP market, but it has the potential to get there. The trick will be keeping service quality high and prices low enough to compete with ISPs that do still offer higher speeds and more reliable connections.
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