Satellite internet is often the only choice for getting online if you live out in a rural area. But it’s not always the fastest or most stable internet connection.
SpaceX’s Starlink has made some headway recently with its fledgling satellite internet service. According to Ookla, the company behind one of the most widely used internet speed tests, Starlink’s internet speeds are faster worldwide than the leading alternative satellite offerings. The report comes just as Starlink marks 90,000 subscribers—20,000 of which were added in the last month alone.
Ookla compared Starlink against HughesNet and Viasat, as well as fixed broadband like cable and DSL. The tests showed that Starlink far outperformed the other two satellite companies in both upload and download tests, ranking almost as high as fixed broadband.
Ookla notes that Starlink was the only provider with a median latency that matched fixed broadband. A lower latency number is better, and it’s a number to watch if you’re planning on any voice and video chatting, gaming, or live streaming—all things you’d like to do no matter where you are. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long claimed that one of Starlink’s significant advantages over traditional satellite internet is overall latency. The latest Ookla speed tests lend a bit of credence to that claim. The numbers are certainly promising.
Starlink currently has about 1,730 low-flying satellites in orbit. They hover closer to the earth’s surface than traditional satellites. They can deliver such capable speeds because it takes less time for the signal to travel back and forth. Conversely, Viasat and Hughesnet rely on high-flying “geosynchronous” orbits, wherein the satellite rotates along with the earth. This method helps deploy the connection across a broader global span without as many satellite units orbiting above, though the relative distance produces higher latency.
For folks living in rural areas, broadband internet is hard to come by. Satellite internet has long provided most of the infrastructure as it’s often the only choice, but it’s expensive and usually capped. Ookla’s tests showed that although Starlink’s performance varied between different counties within the same state, the lower-end speeds were well above the FCC’s baseline performance tier of at least 25 Mbps download speed (although that itself is a ridiculous standard in dire need of updating).
Ookla ran speed tests in other parts of the globe, including Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and New Zealand. Starlink had the fastest download speeds in France and even managed to surpass local fixed broadband in Germany. You can read the full results on Ookla’s website.
Starlink also refreshed its mobile app this week, introducing a neat way to find clear patches of sky and monitor your connection in real time.