If this is your first time reading about Starlink it’s a division of Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. The division works with providing internet to rural and off-grid areas through its network of satellites. Considering that rugged computers are also often used in areas where a fast internet connection is hard to come by, it’s interesting to follow along with the development. So, how good is Starlink in 2022?
Where can you use Starlink?
Much has happened since we last wrote about Starlink in the spring of 2021. At the time there were 1261 Starlink satellites in orbit. At the time of writing this article, they have launched a total of 3055 satellites of which 2846 are functional. So the amount of satellites has more than doubled, making the coverage much better.
With the bigger network, they have also been able to launch their services in several new countries. Starlink now has good coverage in most of Europe, the majority of North America and large parts of Australia. They also provide their services in some Central and South American countries as well as in New Zealand. On top of this, Starlink also covers the oceans along the coasts of the same countries and this includes the entire Mediterranean.
Starlink now provides 4 different types of service packages, residential, business, RV and maritime.
- Residential is the standard package and is designed for private use by people that live in rural areas.
- The business version comes with a much stronger antenna and promises priority as well as better stability in poor weather conditions.
- The RV package is designed for vanlife and people that travel constantly, you can use this anywhere on the continent you bought your services.
- Maritime is made for use at sea by yachts, oil rigs and anything in between.
How reliable is Starlink?
The performance you will get varies heavily depending on what package you get and where you use it. The residential package for instance requires a clear line of sight towards the nearest satellite, making trees and mountains a possible problem. The RV deals better with those things but on the other hand, it gets deprioritized by residential users if you’re in the same area. One thing remains constant, Starlink consistently outclasses the 4G network when it comes to both coverage and speed. So, if that’s your option the choice is easy.
Thomas Ricker of The Verge has shared a review of Starlinks RV package. He tested Starlink in several environments, including in a German forest and during a thunderstorm. Both trees, rain and storms are things that will mess with your satellite connection which makes it particularly interesting.
During his two weeks of testing, he experienced download speeds between 44,2 and 235 Mbps. The upload speed varied between 8,9 and 29,6 Mbps. While these results are not exactly groundbreaking it was consistently several times faster than the 4G network, which at times did not work at all.
When stopping in a forest Starlink provided 49 / 12 Mbps through the trees, for comparison there was no cellular signal at all. He mentions experiencing some dropouts and interruptions but the connection was good enough for doing simple online work. During the thunderstorm tests, there were initially connection problems as the storm broke out. But after a couple of minutes when the worst had passed the connection returned to a functional level. So severe thunderstorms are a no, it mostly works in normal rain and light rain is not a problem.
It’s not all good news
While most of the news you read about Starlink is positive, with more satellites and broader coverage it’s not all smooth sailing for the company. According to a speed test performed by the internet speed measuring company Ookla the speed of Starlink is dropping. The company compared the median speed of Starlink in several countries and year-over-year the speed has dropped from the second quarter of 2021.
A qualified guess is that it’s due to the quickly growing number of users. While the amount of satellites has doubled during that time, the amount of users has grown even more. In June of 2021 Starlink had 100000 service subscribers, in the same month 2022 that number was 500000 subscribers. Currently (in September 2022) we are up to 700000 users.
SpaceX has plenty of satellite launches planned, the company has permission to send 12000 satellites into orbit, compare that to the current number of just below 3000. They have also requested permission to launch another 30000. We will simply have to wait and see if they can keep pace with the growing demand.