Back in October, SpaceX announced it would be recruiting beta testers for its satellite broadband offshoot Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing” service. As soon as the announcement was made, I signed up to be notified when a spot opened up in my area — Walnut Creek, about 30 minutes east of San Francisco. Fast-forward to February and I forked over $594.30 (tax, shipping and one month of service included) to see what it’s like using Starlink.
The beta starter kit that arrived in a 30-pound box at my door included the Starlink antenna dish, a Wi-Fi router, a power adapter, cables and a mounting tripod. For $99 a month, you can expect to see data speeds anywhere between 50 to 150 megabits per second, at a latency (the time it takes to get a response to information sent) of around 20-40 milliseconds. The real kicker is there are no data caps.
Triple-digit download speeds and latency less than 40ms are both basically unheard of in the satellite internet industry. But note that Starlink is catered toward those who live in remote or rural communities that have limited access to internet service providers. Those who live in more urban areas, like me, tend to have more ISP choices, so Starlink would likely not be the first that comes to mind.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted in February that Starlink expects to double speeds by the end of 2021 as the company continues to launch more satellites. As of March, SpaceX has launched 1,300 satellites out of 12,000 planned.
So what’s it like using Starlink? Setting up is actually quite easy, it’s pretty much plug and play. As long as the antenna has a clear view of the sky, the dish will automatically align itself with satellites overhead and you should be connected to the internet. Sounds pretty simple, right? That first week, Starlink was going through an intermittent service outage in my area, which meant I did not have a consistent internet connection.