Since Starlink has come into our range of internet technologies to deliver to our clients it has proven to be a reliable and excellent performer.
As with any product there are pro’s and con’s and it is important to understand these to help you make the right choice.
It’s better to start with the con’s (if you can call them that) and the pro’s far outweigh these.
- Drop-outs; We are all used to geo-stationary/fixed position satellites like this in use by Foxtel and NBN Skymuster. Essentially these point in the one direction the entire time to a Satellite a long out (40,000km) designed to cover the entire country in one hit. Starlink is different. It is likely the first time that most of us have come across an active tracking satellite service where the satellites move across the sky and the dish has to follow them. This is why Starlink needs to clear view of the entire southern sky and obstructions likes treetops make such a big difference to the connection.
You can view the Starlink Satellites on the following webpage; https://satellitemap.space
It is completely normal for the dish to lose connection for a few seconds as one satellite travels over the horizon and it must move to track the next satellite. This drop-out or ‘hunting’ as it is known can take up to 15 seconds, but we commonly see between 3 and 9 seconds. Unless you are on an IP phone or video call (including mobile wi-fi calling) this hunting generally goes unnoticed. Things like Netflix, etc stream with a buffer so often the hunting is unnoticed also.
If you are experiencing regular dropouts or drop-outs of a long period of time then you likely have obstructions to the dish and need to have this looked into.
This is also a reason professional installation is of benefit.
- Temperature; A little known fact about the Starlink dish itself is it’s operational temperature range is between -35 and 50 degrees Celsius. This is great for America where it was designed but will present a challenge for regional Australia, especially central and northern QLD where on a 40_ degree day your roof will be well over 50 degrees. We mitigate this limitation by installing as close to the southern side of the roof as possible AND by using height to our advantage to clear the heat of a metal roof. The radiant heat is greatly reduced the higher we go. Commonly we will try and use a 3m mast with solid stay bars (N2 wind rated) to clear the heat and in conjunction with staying as close to the southern edge as possible this has become best practise for working with this limitation.
Yet another reason professional installation is of benefit.
- Cost; This is a common stumbling block for Starlink. Truth be known the NBN Skymuster service is actually much more expensive BUT it is government funded so you don’t bear this expense. Without challenge from a private enterprise NBN would have never opted to improve the Skymuster service. Skymuster will get better in the long term as it changes to the Oneweb platform in coming years. The reason Starlink is more expensive is you as the user bear 100% of the expense. To me, and our clients that have made the investment, it is worth every cent. No longer is being ‘in the bush’ a barrier for communications. The ongoing monthly cost for unlimited data is $139 per month which for a lot of people is less than they are paying now.
Residential Kits have had a price reduction UNTIL DEC 31st 2022. They are now $450 delivered in Australia.
- Support; The technical support for Starlink is only available via the Starlink App on your mobile device, there is no phone number to call. This lends itself to being difficult to communicate an issue and replies are slow given the difference in time zone with America and Australia. It is also an issue when you have total connection loss and can’t raise a ticket via the app given there is no connection. The only times we have had to go to Starlink for support have been to do with Account and payment issues. All of the technical issues we have been able to sort out ourselves over the phone with our clients.
Yet another reason professional installation is of benefit.
- Emails may stop working. As people move over to Starlink you need to remember you are changing internet providers. If your email service is with your old provider, it will likely stop working once you cancel your service with them. Look at your email, if it is firstname.lastname@example.org then your email is hosted with that provider (Example; Skymesh service, email would be email@example.com; Telstra service, email would be firstname.lastname@example.org). You may be able to talk to your provider and arrange to pay a fee to retain this email service.
It may be beneficial to change your email to an exchange-based email service which isn’t provider dependent. A generic email such as @gmail.com or @outlook.com can provide this.
It may be worthwhile setting up an Office 365 subscription and adding a custom domain such as you would see for a business. Example would be email@example.com. This is a service we regularly provide for our clients and yields an email service that is yours and you can move internet providers without issue.
Now onto the pro’s of the Starlink Service.
- Unlimited Data; For the first time for a lot of our clients in regional Australia unlimited data traffic will be available. This isn’t unlimited between certain hours or unlimited with certain programs, it is unlimited data. You no longer having to wait until the end of the month to watch that episode on Netflix assuming all the data isn’t gone already. You no longer have to sit up till the early hours to use the Off-Peak data.
A note for the future; there is some discussion regarding Starlink plans becoming a limited data package. From what we have seen this is not a restriction to the unlimited data plans but more alternate plan options. For some people unlimited data seems is excessive, some people only want 300Gb per month, but they want Starlink to have the better connection Speed. A limited data plan option with a lesser monthly charge would be ideal. It isn’t that you will be limited with data, it is that you can be if you prefer for a lesser cost plan.
- Latency or Ping Times; Given the NBN Skymuster Satellite has to be so far away it is common to see latency in the 600+ms timeframe due to the 40,000km one-way trip. Starlink low-orbit satellites are on average less than 600km away, so the time taken or the signal to travel to them and back to earth is greatly reduced. We commonly see ping times in the sub 50ms range. This means a much more responsive internet service and the ability to use voice calls over internet without the delays and if you are a gamer, you can finally be competitive!
- Connection Speeds; Starlink do not promise a connection speed as part of their service, it is simply best effort. At the moment we are seeing 300Mbps+ down and 40Mbps+ up as common results. We expect that this will reduce as more and more people connect. This is inevitable as the service congests. The difference with Starlink vs NBN Skymuster is the technology behind it. Linking the Satellites using laser signalling helps prevent congestion and traffic can be off-loaded to adjacent satellites and allow the use of multiple ground-stations. Also, the low-orbit nature of the service ensures lesser congestion as each data transfer is completed much quicker allowing the next transfer to commence. In the US they have seen speeds slow to roughly 100Mbps down and 15Mbps up. Looking at this logically, our population of 26 million vs the US population of over 330 million will never see the data traffic that the US can. Even if 25% (unlikely) of our population connected via Starlink we could never congest to the level of the US.
- Wi-Fi Calling; Because of the low latency Starlink is ideal to use to support your mobile phone via Wi-Fi Calling. If your mobile provider supports WiFi Calling (check with them) even when you are totally out of range, you will still be able to make/receive calls and text message via your Starlink connection. Sadly, the WiFi range of the included Starlink router is pretty average (15/20m range) but with using Mesh WiFi and extended WiFi devices you can improve the WiFi signal throughout your entire home and even further if you wanted to cover a broad area.
We can provide solutions for broad area WiFi, linking buildings as one network and even covering entire properties with WiFi coverage.
Starlink is a great technology and truly levels the internet playing field between the city and ‘the bush’.
It is not perfect and has its quirks as everything does. We know from experience that with professional installation we can mitigate the quirks and greatly improve your Starlink experience.
If you haven’t made the decision to move yet and require assistance with your decision, please give us a call and we can run through a solution to suit you.