Starlink is Elon Musk’s satellite internet project powered by his hugely successful SpaceX company. It is a series of satellites, or “satellite constellation” in SpaceX’s terms, that will provide global Internet coverage when completed.
Which raises questions. Will Starlink replace fixed broadband for businesses?
What is Starlink?
Starlink has one laudable goal: to provide Internet access to anyone, anywhere.
The constellation of satellites will provide Internet connectivity across the world accessible using a satellite dish. So no matter where you are and no matter how fast your landline is, you will soon have another option.
The project is part of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s commercial response to NASA. The company regularly launches satellites into space to build its constellation, with great coverage already in orbit.
Since speed is so important in broadband, how will Starlink compare to landline connections?
According to the Starlink website, download speeds will be between “100 Mb / s and 200 Mb / s” and download speeds “around 40 Mb / s”.
Compare that to global average 56.09 Mbps upload and 23.56 Mbps upload and you will see the whole benefit of speed.
One hurdle Starlink must overcome is latency or ping time. This is the transmission delay between your router and the destination.
The longer the delay, the longer you have to wait between clicking a button or performing an action and seeing it reflected on the screen.
Traditionally, satellite broadband has had latency issues due to the huge distances involved.
The more Internet traffic has to travel, the longer the latency. Light travels at a finite speed and although it is fast there is an inevitable delay in sending traffic from your computer to the satellite, through the constellation to a ground station, to the website or the ‘application and vice versa.
Starlink promises “latency as low as 20ms in most places,” which is a significant difference from traditional satellite broadband.
It is able to achieve this by inserting satellites into a low earth orbit (LEO), while most other broadband satellite orbits are much further away. However, the downside of this approach is that you need more satellites to cover the same area, which is why Starlink must use large constellations of satellites.
Will Starlink be the solution for rural businesses?
We would say that Starlink could be “a” solution for rural businesses rather than “the” solution.
Most countries make continuous improvements to broadband networks, but it takes time and money.
This time and money is naturally spent first in cities and towns, where suppliers can immediately begin to recoup their investment. Rural areas usually come later, much later.
Starlink waives part of this delay.
Rural businesses are important to an economy but offer meager returns on investment. This is something that Starlink could really change.
Around 2% of UK rural businesses have broadband below 10 Mbps with no signs of changing anytime soon.
Starlink is offering 10x more and will be ready soon.
How does the UK compare to other countries for fiber coverage?
The UK currently has 24% total fiber coverage but lags behind many other countries.
Portugal has 77% total fiber coverage and Spain is committed to achieving 100% very high speed by 2025. The United States currently sits in 43% coverage while Germany is about 11% full fiber coverage.
What fixed connections are there for rural businesses?
Fixed broadband options are rare. Depending on where you live in the world. You can compare fiber broadband offers with Broadband Genie, but if none are available, you have the option of a private leased line, community fiber project, community WiFi project, or a local fiber cooperative.
Private leased lines are very fast but very expensive. Community projects are not very common and fiber cooperatives or local fiber networks are even less so.
This is an area where Starlink could meet a real need.
How do the costs compare?
Besides speed, cost is a primary consideration for any broadband customer. So how do landlines and Starlink compare?
Many residential and business broadband contracts have no setup fees. All charges incurred by the supplier are incorporated into the monthly charges to make them more acceptable.
Commercial options such as leased lines may have installation costs, but these are being phased out for the same reasons.
Starlink doesn’t advertise its installation or running costs, but if you pre-order you’ll see the $ 600 (£ 439 / € 522) figure used a lot. This will include the satellite dish, WiFi router, wiring, and base. This is quite a substantial amount compared to the minimum expenses required for some other types of broadband.
Monthly charges are the overhead that we all see when shopping for broadband deals.
Monthly fixed broadband business costs vary a lot. It could be as little as £ 20 (€ 23 / $ 26) for 50 Mbps (UK price) and go much higher.
A leased line costs from £ 195 per month (BTnet Express), or $ 262 or € 232.
Starlink does not currently advertise monthly costs, but the pre-order page says it will cost around £ 89 / € 105 / $ 119 per month.
It remains to be seen whether or not these charges will include data caps. We imagine that will be the case, at least to begin with.
These prices are not confirmed and may be cheaper in developing countries. It’s hard to know for sure until the company officially announces pricing.
Is there a way to reduce the cost of a leased line?
Leased lines are an expensive option for businesses, but often the only way to access faster speeds. While many vendors are phasing out installation costs, these monthly fees can be significant.
You can reduce the cost of a leased line by sharing it with other companies. For example, if you work in a building with others, you might have a single leased line shared between you.
This would provide the speed you are looking for while dividing the cost between the number of companies that share it.
Can I get Starlink broadband for my business?
Starlink is not yet available everywhere, so you may not be able to get it for your business.
Deployment is expected to begin soon, with limited deployment in Q4 2021 in the United States. This is a limited deployment open to approximately 100,000 customers.
Membership has been so good that there is currently a waiting list of over 500,000 people. This has led Starlink to delay open registrations until mid-2022 or 2023.
A quick check on the UK pre-order page gives a date of “mid-2022”.
Coverage and availability
Coverage expands every time SpaceX launches more satellites, but it’s spotty right now.
The rollout has been somewhat delayed by ongoing global semiconductor shortages, but the company says it is going as fast as possible.
Putting random addresses in the pre-order page gives these dates 2022 or 2023 while others, mainly in the US, give a different message “Starlink is currently at full capacity in your region, so your order may not be processed. before 2023 or later. “
Your best bet is to put your own address in the “Service address” box. at the top of the Starlink site to see when it will be available in your area.
Starlink and fixed business broadband
There is no doubt that Starlink will certainly be a viable alternative to landline or mobile broadband, but not yet.
A combination of the huge scope of the project, semiconductor shortages, and massive demand means you’ll likely have to wait awhile.
But, if you’re in a rural area or a slow broadband area, you’re probably used to waiting for things, aren’t you?