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Starlink: A Satellite Constellation to Provide High Speed Internet Across the Globe

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX aiming to provide high speed internet access across the globe.

February 18, 2021
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  • Future
  • Space
  • Internet

  • According to research by "Statista", almost 4.57 billion people use the internet on daily basis and the world population is currently about 7.8 billion according to Wikipedia. Roughly 3.3 billion people either don't use the internet or have no access to it. It is safe to assume that around 1 to1.5 billion people want to use the internet but have no access to it. Can you just imagine waking up one day to a world with no Internet? Even the thought of it is dreadful as the Internet drives our daily lives and without it most of our day-to-day tasks come to a halt.

    What exactly is Starlink?

    SpaceX Office

    To provide internet across the globe, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, launched a division named "Starlink" under SpaceX whose aim is to create a satellite constellation that will provide broadband internet to consumers all over the world. Product development started in 2015 with the first two test satellites launched in February 2018. This constellation will consist of thousands of satellites in low earth orbit. Currently, SpaceX has already a network of about 1100 Starlink satellites in space and the company has started beta testing across few selected regions of the world.

    So, How this system will be different from other Internet Service Providers (ISPs)? To answer this question we'll first try to understand how conventional ISP's work. When you buy internet services for your home or office you usually contact the most trustworthy ISP in your area. These ISP either use wired or wireless networks to provide you with internet access which is subjected to their availability in your region. If you live in an area where the ISP doesn't provide any services or has poor coverage then you'll most likely get into a lot of problems. Starlink has a different approach to this. As it provides internet access directly through satellites hence it is easier for them to reach areas where there is a difficulty for other ISPs to reach. Also, direct internet from satellites means less interference and less interference means high speeds and low latency.

    When is Starlink Internet expected to launch?

    As mentioned earlier, Starlink has already started beta testing for its services. This beta testing is limited to specific locations, mainly high altitude areas where it easier to capture satellite signals, also this beta testing is given to consumers on a first-come-first-serve basis. The company plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites into space which is quite higher than currently launched satellites. So it is safe to assume that this project will at least take a decade more to be commercially available to the consumers. But according to SpaceX's initial assumptions this project was to be launched to consumers by the end of 2025, guess we'll have to wait and see for ourselves.

    To register for pre-order/beta testing you can visit Starlink's Official Website. After registration, the Starlink team will contact you through your provided email address which is subjected to the availability of their service in your area and if they have a vacancy in their current beta program.

    How much will SpaceX Starlink Internet cost?

    Starlink pre-orders currently cost $99 a month. The service also will require you to pay an up-front hardware fee of $499 which basically covers the cost of hardware required to connect to their service. That includes the small satellite dish that can be set up at a home or business, as well as a router and power supply. Along with this setup cost, there is also a shipping cost depending upon your area of residence. 

    From a general consumer's standpoint, the current pricing of Starlink Internet service is quite high as compared with other service packages offered by ISPs. But the company plans to offer affordable pricing to rural areas and places with no internet coverage and competitive pricing to big cities and places that currently have internet access. Hence, it is safe to assume that when the service finally launches the prices may be reasonable.

    What are the specs of Starlink Internet?

    Unlike other satellite and ground internet providers, Starlink promises to offer low-latency and high broadband speeds regardless of your location. Starlink was initially boasting speeds of 1 Gbps, but the company increased that target up to 10 Gbps. This means that one could download the entire GTA V or other games above 100GB in less than 90 seconds. 

    You may not believe it but considering the fact that Starlink is a satellite-based internet service, it has surprisingly low latency which averages around 41 milliseconds. A standard fiber connection can have a latency as low as 20 milliseconds. There is not much of a big difference as on Starlink internet connection gamers can play almost any online shooting/fighting game because latency between 20 ms - 40 ms is considered as optimum for gaming and other online tasks.

    A look into Starlink's future and its competitors

    In past, there have been some companies that tried to create a constellation of satellites that will beam the internet down to earth but almost all of them went bankrupt. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is well aware of this and he has said on many occasions that they are carefully proceeding with this plan so that they don't end up bankrupt like others and so far the company is doing great. If Starlink actually ends up succeeding then it will be a game-changer for the entire world.

    We can say that Starlink is far ahead of other companies trying to accomplish the same goal but it is safe to say that Starlink has healthy competition ahead of it. Currently, companies like Amazon, OneWeb, Telesat & Boeing are working towards the same goal as Starlink. China and Russia are also working towards a satellite constellation that will be similar to Starlink's. At this point, we can assume that the future of the Internet will be based on constellations of satellites working together to provide seamless service to humans beings across the globe.

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    About Author

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    Malik Talha

    Chief Editor

    Hi there, I am the Chief Editor & System Admin of this platform. Professionally, I am just an Under Graduate Computer Science student. Personally, I like to code, eat, watch tv shows and sleep. Follow me on social media to get in touch.


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