StarLink's High Speed Internet Without Borders (soon-ish)

Aug 30, 2021

You may have heard about StarLink. This is a satellite service but it it has two differences from traditional sat-based internet like Xplornet. First, it’s not limited to one or two big satellites. They have already launched over 1,000 small satellites, and the 'dish' antenna can track whichever ones are above you at any point in time. Secondly, their satellites are in 'low earth orbit', much closer to the earth than Xplornet’s. When you send a request (for a web page, or to make a move in an online game, say), data packets have to go up to the satellite and then back down to the server, and the response or acknowledgment has to go back up to the 'sat' and back down to your home. The further the distance, the greater the delay. So halving the height of the satellite alone would the delay times in half. And according to Starlinks' web site, "Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite internet." That would include multi-user gaming, usable video conferencing, and much more.

Starlink is technically still 'Beta' testing. Starlink’s speed is currently 50 to 150Mb/s, which is less than the 400 offered by various fiber-based services, but 3x the maximum that most wireless ISPs offer. As more Starlink satellites go up, the speed will go up, hopefully to 300Mb/s this year, then to 1,000 Mb/s ('gigabit') speed, and eventually ten times that. And the price is comparable to commercial fiber packages - US$99, C$129, per month.

When you sign up with Starlink, you will find out if you are eligible for immediate purchase of the Beta - limited enrolment in each 'cell' area - or to pre-order for mid-2021 purchase. In the former case you have to buy equipment (see below) immediately. In the latter case the company only takes a one-month deposit. This is fully refundable if something better comes along before they ship. If one of the local providers runs fiber to my street and installs a working connection, I will be testing out the refund option. Though I’d much rather test out the service! It could be summer or even fall of 2021 before Starlink clears their backlog for post-beta customers. I signed up Feb 8th, 2021 and got an email saying "Starlink will begin offering service in your area beginning mid to late 2021. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis." Before they ship, you will be asked to pay US$499/C$649 to buy the antenna and radio equipment. And that price may come down with mass production and improved design. If you think that’s expensive, guess what? Our local ISP who’s laid a bunch of new fiber charges C$1,000.00 to hook up to their new fiber, which is, of course, bypassing my location anyway. That’s a minimum - extra $$ if you are more than 40M from the street where they ran their fiber. And, if you move, your $1,000+ is down the drain. With Starlink, you should be able to just pack up the dish unit and load it onto on the moving van along with everything else (though you will have to notify Starlink because your radio is apparently tied to a certain area).

So if you’re ready for serious high-speed internet this year, rather than waiting another umpteen years, I suggest you visit and sign up. Quickly. If you have questions, email me.

Information sources:

+ I don’t know how they can call it frequently asked questions since they have been very careful to avoid giving anyone a chance to ask them questions, to keep their busy staff from being overloaded; there is no "Contact us" page, no published emails except for low-volume topics like accessibility issues, no public phone number, etc.

Disclosure note: I do not get any royalties or "emoluments" from StarLink. Since StarLink is owned by SpaceX which is privately held, I have not even been able to buy a few shares.