Advanced Television

Analyst: Improvements in satellite broadband speeds

January 4, 2024

By Chris Forrester

Analysts at CCG Consulting report that their examination of Ookla download statistics for satellite operators, and in particular SpaceX’s Starlink, shows a “significant improvement” in download speeds in Q3 2023 when compared with the position at the end of 2022.

However, there are caveats. CCG says: “Starlink’s median download speed in the third quarter of 2023 in North America was 64.5 Mbps. That is a significant improvement over 2022 where the median speed was 53 Mbps. This is still significantly lower than what the company had promised in its original RDOF filing where the company said it could easily provide speeds to everybody of at least 100 Mbps.”

“Ookla noted that 60 per cent of Starlink speed tests were coming from urban areas. They can’t know the relative penetration rates of urban versus rural due to Starlink selling so many roaming units that can be installed on the roof of a camper or moved from place to place,” adds CCG.

CCG noted in its analysis that the high-orbit geosynchronous satellites offering broadband were not performing as well as Starlink, commenting: “The median speed test in Q3/2023 for HughesNet was 15.87 Mbps, and Viasat was 34.72 Mbps. The real differentiator between these companies and Starlink is the latency, with the high-orbit satellites having a median latency well above 500 milliseconds, while Starlink performance is similar to cable companies.”

CCG also suggests that churn for Starlink is a potential problem, noting: “The biggest problem [we] hear from Starlink users is the price, with a [US] base price of $110 per month, but many people are paying $120 since they live in regions that have a lot of Starlink subscribers. I also know several folks who tried the technology and abandoned it – all lived in heavy woods and were never able to find a configuration that would deliver reliable broadband. [We’ve] also been seeing reports during the year on surveys where customers say the broadband suffers during rainy weather.”

The researchers also comment on the likely impact from the much-awaited entry of Amazon’s Project Kuiper into the market, adding: “After multiple delays, the company finally launched its first two test satellites in 2023. The company is still optimistic about selling broadband in two or three years and has reserved numerous launch windows with rocket companies. The company has been moot on broadband pricing, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company come up with interesting bundling packages that include Amazon.”

While the CCG report doesn’t cover non-US regions, it is now clear that Starlink is reducing prices in some markets. There is confirmation that many European users have seen monthly prices reduced from a typical €60 per month, to €40 per month. Consumers in Italy, Spain, Greece all report the lower pricing structure. In Italy, for example, the price of the dish+modem has also been significantly reduced (from €450 to €299) by 33 percent.

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