Starlink promises to bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote areas currently underserved by wired Internet. Can it also also bring high-speed Internet along on your next camping trip? This weekend, I embarked on a 1,600-mile road trip to find out.
What’s Elon Musk’s Starlink Device?
Created by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink’s goal is to spread high-speed Internet across the entire planet. It does that using constellations of small satellites. To-date, SpaceX has put about 2,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. That’s enough to cover most of the contiguous United States, parts of Canada and Alaska, western Europe, all of New Zealand, and southern Australia. Eventually, Musk hopes to bring that total to 42,000 satellites, expanding coverage across pretty much the entire globe.
Starlink customers use a compact satellite dish to communicate with those satellites. Packaged with a power cord, stand, and modem/WiFi router, the consumer version of that kit currently costs $599, while the monthly service contract, which includes unlimited data, costs $110. To get on the list for one, you’ll need to put down a $99 deposit, which doesn’t include shipping (another $50).
The dish itself, its cord, and stand are weatherproof. The modem/router is not. Starlink requires a normal 110-volt, three-prong household power outlet to operate.
Current speeds are said to be between 100 and 200 megabytes-per-second download, and 10 to 20 MBPS upload, with latency as low as 20 milliseconds, depending on how clear your view of the sky is, and atmospheric conditions. Those numbers are consistent with my testing, and are equivalent to most cable Internet connections in homes, if only about half the speed of fiber optic setups.
Starlink should be faster, cheaper, more reliable, and offer more widespread coverage than other satellite Internet providers.
Yeah, should be fully mobile later this year, so you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion. We need a few more satellite launches to achieve compete coverage & some key software upgrades.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2021
Notable Limitations, According to Crowd-Sourced Data
Here are some