Starlink Leaving Beta in October


According to Starlink CEO Elon Musk, the satellite internet service is planned to exit beta testing in October of 2021. While this missed an earlier June launch date Musk previously mentioned, it’s still far earlier than many industry spectators predicted. Primarily targeted at rural users and developing nations, Starlink could be a game-changer, but it’s not without caveats.

Purchasing on a Necessary Basis

While new and cutting-edge technology like Starlink are enticing for early adopters, it’s important to note that Starlink isn’t a direct upgrade to many existing internet connections. Offering around 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload in perfect circumstances, it can be comparable to mid-high range ADSL, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to fibre.

For this reason, we’d suggest prospective customers first look at their current usage patterns before making a shift. For an illustration of why this is, consider a common use of online betting and checking the latest horse racing odds. The backing systems of these AI algorithms rely on immense data usage and calculations to predict winners, but for users, data usage is the same as with regular browsing. The same applies to visiting casino websites to place their bets, as their ecosystems are notoriously light on data requirements. Because of this, online users with existing plans, even of slower speeds, might not have a reason to upgrade, as no appreciable advantage would result.

In a similar vein are those on slower speed connections who use their internet for gaming. While Starlink might offer increases in bandwidth and latency, some beta users have reported problems maintaining constant connections. Given that outages can last for seconds or hours, and aren’t entirely predictable, users for games that require constant connections could be better off staying with current plans.

Potential Use Cases

Though the above examples might paint a situation of doom and gloom, there are scenarios where Starlink could be a significant step up. The biggest example here is from users who are stuck with cabled internet plans that are too slow to be tolerable in the modern environment. Connections lower than 5Mbps are prime for replacement with Starlink in this regard, at least for anyone who wants a half-usable browsing or streaming experience.

Another major potential customer base is those who don’t require the most consistent connection, but who do rely on occasional data-heavy transmissions for downloads and uploads. In these instances, even if Starlink proves unreliable, the ability to queue data for later can prove invaluable.

The Perfect Starlink Experience

While many Starlink users can expect short outages and interruptions, this isn’t always the case. The biggest weakness with Starlink, its requirement of a consistent wide line of sight to the sky, can be eliminated for some users. As long as you can place a satellite in a location without trees or buildings getting in the way, Starlink could perform just as well as its cabled contemporaries. If your home has this advantage, and you suffer from a slow existing plan, then Starlink could be a game-changer well worth a look.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Carries Starlink Satelli” (CC BY 2.0) by beltz6

Though the potential for Starlink is immense, it’s still far too early to tell if the technology will succeed or fail. Built off the back of government subsidies, the continuation of Starlink depends on its commercial success and ability to reach deployment milestones. As with any technology helmed by Musk, the ability of the system to achieve lofty claims remains in question. Still, with a terminal cost of $500 and a $100 monthly fee, there are far more expensive traditional options out there, so Starlink could be worth a change for the right household.