Advanced Television

Starlink speeds under pressure?

December 22, 2021

Data from internet speedtest provider Ookla show a decline of around 100 Mb/s over the past quarter for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband by satellite system. Ookla says that during Q2 this year the median download speed for Starlink users was 97.23 Mb/s. During Q3 the median speed had dropped to 87.25 Mb/s.

Ookla’s head of content, in a blog-post, says that the decline could simply be a result of adding more customers.

Ookla says it has seen sufficient reports and samples during Q3 to analyse Starlink performance in 304 US counties and found that the county with the fastest Starlink speed was Santa Fe County, New Mexico, where the median download speed was 146.58 Mb/s. The slowest Starlink speed was found in a small lake-side community (Drummond Township) in Michigan. The median download speed there was 46.63 Mb/s – nearly 100 Mb/s slower than the Santa Fe speed.

The report is important because if average speeds fall below 100 Mb/s then the cash awarded to SpaceX by the FCC as part of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund scheme.

The SpaceX satellite system is only partly rolled out. Even with last weekend’s launch of an additional 52 satellites the system has less than 50 per cent of its targeted satellites in orbit.

And while a speed average of 97.23 Mb/s might sound miserable, it is – at least – constant and a significant improvement on the transmission rates of established players such as HughesNet or Viasat. Ookla’s Speedtest Q3 data for HughesNet reports download speeds of 19.30 Mb/s, while Viasat’s average is 18.75 Mb/s. However, while these sorts of speeds – especially for rural areas – are wholly acceptable where previously there was next-to-zero connectivity Ookla also says that the all-important latency data for HughesNet was typically 744 milliseconds, or 629 milliseconds for Viasat. SpaceX’s latency was a super-fast 44 milliseconds.

SpaceX also managed another praiseworthy milestone on December 21st when it brought back another Falcon 9 booster, its 100th landing of a booster.

“One hundred is a big milestone,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX’s Dragon mission management at SpaceX, during a briefing ahead of the launch. “We’re excited about that, and we’re also excited to see how few new boosters we have to produce as the years go by and we develop our robust maintenance processes on the fleet.”

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