- By John R. Quain
Starlink Review: Elon Musk's Plan to Get Internet Access Everywhere
Getting broadband internet access to rural parts of the country has been a promise for decades, but no one has been able to deliver the goods. Until now. Elon Musk's rather audacious proposal to put thousands of satellites in the air to reach remote customers is already paying off according to my tests of the still-in-beta Starlink service.
I found it simple to set up and faster not only than DSL lines but also quicker than what many basic cable packages are actually able to deliver. Certainly as the only option for sparsely populated areas, Starlink could prove to be a godsend, albeit an expensive one. The basic hardware package is $499--plus $99 a month for service. (Shipping and taxes put the initial total at $581.94).
So why is Starlink such a savior? Because in many areas of the United States--let alone parts of the developing world--there is either no or very poor high-speed internet options. In our bucolic Vermont testing spot, for example, there is no cell service, no cable service, and no optical fiber. And 5G won't help. The towers have to be too numerous to bounce signals around the mountains, and the lower frequency version of 5G that gives you more distance simply isn't fast enough.
Enter Starlink's service. It uses a network of satellites in low earth orbit to bring the signal down to you. Currently, there are over 1,000 tiny Starlink satellites aloft, but thousands more are needed before the system is complete (each SpaceX Falcon 9 launch carries 60 satellites). Unlike Dish or DirecTV birds, these are not geosynchronous or geostationary satellites, so the Starlink dish consumers use has to be able to move automatically should it need to realign itself to pick up a new satellite. But the big advantage Starlink has is that the lower earth orbit satellites, which are about 340 miles above the earth, substantially reduce the signal delay or latency, especially compared to DirecTV satellites, which are sitting over 22,000 miles above the planet.