Speeds are improving for Starlink’s low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet service in the U.S., where Ookla Speedtest analysis also found faster median download and upload speeds than other satellite providers.
While the SpaceX LEO venture still falls behind fixed broadband providers for downloads, Ookla found it was much closer than Viasat and HughesNet on upload, and had fixed-broadband-like latency figures.
Starlink’s satellite service is meant to target areas where there are few or no other options for consumer internet, and Ookla categorized results from all three satellite providers in Q2 2021 as encouraging.
That said, Starlink “was the only satellite internet provider in the United States with…median download speeds fast enough to handle most of the needs of modern online life.”
Starlink’s median download speed was 97.23 Mbps in Q2, an improvement from 65.72 Mbps the previous quarter. HughesNet and Viasat each saw their speeds improve very slightly since the first quarter, but were both well behind Starlink, with median downloads of 19.73 Mbps and 18.13 Mbps, respectively.
The satellite providers compare to a 115.22 Mbps median download for all fixed providers in the U.S. in Q2.
The Federal Communications Commission threshold for broadband service is 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.
For upload speeds, Ookla reported HughesNet as the slowest at 2.43 Mbps, with Viasat only slightly ahead at 3.38 Mbps. Starlink’s median upload was far faster at 13.89 and compares to fixed broadband of 17.18 Mbps.
Ookla pointed to Starlink’s use of LEO satellites as boosting latency figures, given the lower altitude means less round trip time than from geosynchronous orbit satellites used by Viasat and HughesNet. Latency was 45 ms for Starlink, versus 630 ms for Viasat and 724 ms for HughesNet. Fixed broadband providers came in at 14 ms.
Starlink’s reach also appears to be expanding, with enough samples for Ookla to analyze performance in 458 U.S. counties, many more than it said qualified in Q1. Even in Starlink’s slowest performing county, median download was still 64.51 Mbps – found in Madison County, Indiana. The fastest was in Morgan County, Alabama, at 168.3 Mbps.
Looking globally, the Speedtest data showed Starlink was much faster than fixed broadband providers in France, Germany, New Zealand and the U.K. Read the full results here.
In May, Starlink said it had more than 500,000 signups (though signups don’t mean they’re getting the service yet, as it’s still in beta phase). Speaking during a Mobile World Congress keynote in late June, Elon Musk suggested it was on its way to having a few 100,000 and potentially more than half a million users within 12 months.
Starlink users currently pay a one-time fee of $499 for a satellite dish and Wi-Fi router, while service costs $99 per month. Musk had said he hopes to get the cost of the terminal, both from Starlink’s side and end-user price, down and that Starlink is working to develop next-gen versions that provide roughly the same level of capability but lower cost.
The company says users can expect to see speeds vary in range from 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps in most locations, but notes there will be periods of no connectivity at all.