Having easy access to the internet is something most people are so used to that they rarely think about it. They forget that three billion people still do not have a reliable connection to the web.
That means that 37% of people still have no internet. Something that puts them at a considerable disadvantage to the other 63% who can simply look things up when they have a question or want to assess the validity of an idea.
In most cases, the remoteness of the place they live in or the fact that they reside in a developing country where there is little money to spend on infrastructure is the reason, they do not have the internet. Both of those problems are extremely hard and costly to solve, which is why for decades the communications community has been working on providing web access using satellites.
Elon Musk Finally Cracks Satellite Internet With Starlink
Many have tried and failed, but all the indications are that Elon Musk has succeeded. His Starlink Satellite Internet service, which had its first live trial in August 2020, is now up and running as a commercial concern.
As of May 2022, it is available in thirty-two countries and many others have agreed to let their citizens use the system. Now, nobody can argue that satellite internet is not here to stay. So, the only question now is how does it compare to what is already available? Are we going to be saying goodbye to traditional but fast fibre optic connections? Or is Starlink just for people who live in places that are not currently served by traditional internet providers? The best way to find out is to compare the differences.
Starlink Does Not Need Infrastructure
The fact that the system needs no cables is what has got much of the world really excited about the project. It does not rely on governments, regions and other authorities having to find the money to lay cables. That is huge.
What Does The Starlink Terminal Look Like?
But there is a catch. The system does not need infrastructure to work, but you do need a special piece of hardware to use the service. You can see what it looks like here.
As of May 2022, the cost for that is a one-off payment of $599 for residential users, with a monthly subscription of $110 per month. That is quite a bit more than the cost of most traditional forms of internet connection, in the USA. Something that is likely to put people off being early adopters.
But in remote areas, it could be an option. That price is not that different from what existing traditional satellite internet providers charge, and as you will see the Starlink service has some advantages that may well persuade people to switch from their current satellite service.
How Fast Is Starlink?
Since Starlink first launched there has been lots of debate about how fast their connection is. Fortunately, Ookla the people behind speedtest.net have compared the Starlink service with that provided by other forms of internet connection. You can read their full results here.
In March 2022, they recorded a median download speed of 104.97 Mbs and upload speeds of 12.04 with a latency of just 40ms. Speeds that would satisfy even relatively heavy users and match what a lot of fibre providers actually manage to deliver.
What Do Users Think
Overall users have been quite impressed with the performance they have got from their Starlink packages. Although most would like to see the price fall, instead of going up, which is what has happened for new subscribers. But with the cost of raw materials soaring, prices going up instead of down is likely to be the norm, for a while yet.
Starlink Is Part Of The Answer
There is no doubt that Starlink and other low orbit satellite systems are going to be able to provide virtually 100% global internet access. But the cost of connecting will be an issue for many people. It is also highly unlikely that users who already have access to a high-speed connection are going to want to switch. Unless, of course, the Starlink service improves even further and turns out to be better than what is currently available. It will also take a while before people feel confident enough to rely 100% on a satellite internet connection.