SpaceX's Starlink service will offer satellite internet. But how does satellite internet work and can it help remote locations?
If you looked at the beautiful night sky in the summer of 2020, you may have seen some new unexpected bright signs on the horizon. No, they are not alien visitors. Instead, they are hundreds of new low-orbit satellites that are part of SpaceX's Starlink project.
Well, what is Starlink; When will Starlink be available for regular consumers in Greece? And how will satellite internet work?
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a project that will place thousands of small satellites in low orbit on Earth (LEO = Low Earth Orbit), 550 kilometers above us. They will transmit internet signals to ground transceivers, which in turn will transmit locally or transmit data directly to the Starlink router.
Starlink is not the same as a cell phone or 5G signal. Allows a home, business or remote location to connect to the internet via satellite.
As of November 2020, there were already 955 Starlink satellites orbiting the planet. SpaceX plans to deploy at least 12.000 satellites, with a goal of reaching as many as 30.000, to secure global internet coverage via Starlink (some sources say it could reach up to 42.000).
How does satellite internet work?
Satellite internet works similar to cable internet, except that there are a few moving parts (literally!). The following is a brief summary:
- Go to Iguru to stay up to date with the latest technology. Your data request is transmitted from your computer to an Internet satellite dish connected to your home (or nearby location).
- Satellite dish on the Internet transmits data request to a satellite orbiting the Earth. In turn, the satellite sends the request to the ISP.
- Returning your data does the exact opposite process, transmitting data from the provider to the satellite, then the satellite to your satellite dish, to your router and to your computer.
- Get to Iguru and start reading!
This is a basic description of how satellite internet works.
How Fast is Starlink Internet?
Starlink advertises download speeds of up to 1Gbps, but only when the service is fully operational. SpaceX targets latency of less than 20 milliseconds, so one could play a fast-paced video game at a competitive level using the service.
In August 2020, Starlink launched its beta launch program to multiple users in large latitudes across the United States and Canada, such as Seattle, Chicago, and Portland. There are some very promising results among speed tests available to the public through services such as Ookla Speedtest and of TestMy , with an easy to use Reddit list showing some of the best speeds (the image above shows the average speed).
- According to the list, the fastest confirmed Starlink speed is 203,74Mbps, with a ping of 29ms.
- The fastest total ping is 18ms.
- The fastest upload that appears is 42,58Mbps.
Obviously, these are remarkable speeds that will only improve when more Starlink satellites reach the sky. As Starlink beta testers have signed a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement for the service, speed tests provide some of the best information on how the service works.
Is Starlink Faster Than Fiber Optic?
The answer depends on your provider. The fiber internet logically exceeds 1Gbps. Currently, Starlink is not as fast as fiber, but it is faster than some of the alternative internet technologies (ADSL, VDSL, Wisp). Given SpaceX's history of building huge projects, we would expect Starlink to become faster and faster.
You should also note that Starlink does not attempt to compete with fiber services. Instead, Starlink targets rural and remote users, providing these people with much faster Internet than is possible (or at least at higher speeds and with less restrictions). Such services are currently in Greece adsl, vdsl, wisp, 4G internet.
Of the above, only the wisp service and 4G are wireless. The first is the internet connection via wireless connection with a dish on a ground station (usually on a mountain) and the second is the known connection via sim card and a mobile provider. Both are very expensive services with unreliable results when they are shared and have a lot of traffic.
Who can use Starlink?
When the full range of Starlink satellites is in orbit, the service will offer "almost global population coverage". Currently, only select users in North America can use Starlink.
There are other thoughts. For example, Starlink may offer coverage in your country, but if you can use it, the rules will be covered by national law.
Australia has given Starlink full license for satellite internet coverage, as well as many more. However, countries such as China and Russia will require special service regulation if they allow Starlink to broadcast on their frequencies. Another alternative is to ban the sale and use of Starlink ground terminals.
So, the answer is not as simple as you think, that is, it is enough to activate the Starlink satellite receiver, once you have coverage.
Will Starlink benefit remote areas?
Starlink will provide global satellite internet coverage. For people living in remote areas, Starlink could change the way they make full use of the internet. However, how much you will benefit from the Starlink service, see the section above.
A specific advantage of Starlink for remote locations is the latency (response time). If you are in a remote area, building a large cable is costly and has the potential disadvantage of high latency. Starlink data transmissions will take place partly in the space gap, possibly reducing latency. At the very least, Starlink response time will be great for remote locations.
How much will Starlink cost?
The test phase of Starlink, officially known as Better Than Nothing Beta, cost home customers $ 499 for the Starlink antenna and router, as well as another $ 99 per month, for the subscription.
So far, there is a small indication of the final prices for Starlink, but how much it will probably reach depends on the agreements that SpaceX will make with the regulator of each country.
When will it come to Greece and how much will it cost?
According MoneyReview article The service is expected to arrive in Greece in the first quarter of 1. The newspaper considers that "project executives are in contact with both the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) and the Ministry of Digital Government in order to obtain the necessary licensing."
He states that the service will be priced at about 20% more expensive, but will provide 100% coverage throughout Greece with speeds that will reach 150mbps. If this is done then many loopholes in connection charges will likely change.
The price is likely to fall as well, as satellite launches and production lines increase.
Can I See Starlink Satellites From Earth?
At the moment the satellites are visible to the naked eye but as soon as they ascend to LEO, ie 550 kilometers above the Earth, you will struggle to see them with the naked eye. They will be visible using a telescope, which will make life very difficult for astronomers and space enthusiasts.
The SpaceX website that lists the orbits of its satellites and when they pass through the country where you live it's her. You can visit it and select your country for more information.
How Will Starlink Affect Astronomy?
The initial report from night sky observers and scientists is poor. The concern that Starlink is contaminating the LEO area with artificial light from satellites seems reasonable.
A SpaceX experiment, DarkSat, aims to reduce light pollution from satellites. SpaceX claims to have reduced light pollution on its test satellites by about 55% compared to regular Starlink satellites. However, this is still "too bright for astronomers' extremely sensitive instruments, which can observe stellar objects four billion times fainter than this limit."
As long as Starlink has about 955 satellites in the sky, it is not a huge problem. But when there is a train of 12.000 or even a ceiling of 40.000 satellites, artificial light pollution could become a major issue.
Is Starlink Safe?
Starlink is secure in terms of data transmission. It's not 5G, which some are worried about . It is not the same as Wi-Fi. Starlink uses existing frequency bands (Ka and Ku bands) that have long been used for seamless satellite communication.
Of course, conspiracy theorists everywhere are sure to find something to blame. After all, that is why they are addressed as conspiracy theorists.