SpaceX has announced pricing for its forthcoming Starlink satellite broadband service, revealing that subscriptions for its beta program will cost $99 (around £75) per month, plus a hefty $499 (~£380) setup fee to cover the equipment.
Satellite internet services can provide coverage to vast areas, allowing even the most remote homes to get fast internet access without a telephone or any other kind of line.
Satellite broadband is not new, and there are already numerous providers offering cheaper satellite services in the UK. But Starlink stands apart because its constellation of satellites is in a low earth orbit (LEO), which means it has a crucial advantage in latency.
Latency is the response time of a connection, the measure of how long it takes to send data and receive a response. Low latency is vital for anything which relies on real-time communication, such as online gaming and video calling.
Other satellite broadband services have a higher orbit and much higher latency as a result, usually in the region of 700ms. But Starlink’s promised latency puts it in the same class as a terrestrial fixed-line broadband connection. Initially, the SpaceX “ping times” are estimated to be in the region of 20ms-40ms, falling to as little as 16ms-19ms by next year.
Starlink can also deliver some impressive speeds, with download rates pegged at 50Mbps-150Mbps in the early stages of the service.
Satellite has the potential to make a huge difference for those in rural areas where other kinds of broadband are either comparatively slow or nonexistent and installing a faster line is prohibitively expensive. Starlink’s low latency eliminates the biggest drawback of this technology, which could significantly broaden its appeal.
Although UK availability and pricing is not yet confirmed, we can expect it to cost a similar amount as the US. But is that an amount you’d be willing to pay for high-speed internet that works anywhere without a phone line?
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