SpaceX is the star of the private aerospace industry at the moment, with different projects on the ground and initiatives to make space even more accessible to people. However, one of SpaceX’s biggest endeavors - Starlink - remains an integral part of its growth.
One of the primary benefits of Starlink is that it is the one thing that SpaceX has continued to break ground with. After launching over a thousand satellites, Starlink is now looking more promising.
Giving Fixed Broadband a Run for Its Money
Earlier this month, Speedtest published a report confirming that Starlink is fast approaching the speed of the most popular broadband service providers. As the report explained, the company’s network had an average download speed of 97.23 megabits per second (Mbps) in the second quarter of the year.
On the flip side, the top broadband service providers recorded 115.22 Mbps in average speeds for the same period. While it isn’t at the level of broadband services yet, Starlink has a lot to celebrate, considering that its average speed in the first quarter was 65.2 Mbps.
Fixed broadband services offer internet connection through fiber-optic connections and phone lines. On the other hand, Starlink is sending connections down from space, with 1,414 satellites launched according to real-time statistics.
As Speedtest also showed, fixed broadband services recorded a median latency of 14 milliseconds in the year’s second quarter. Starlink was the only satellite service to even come close to the number, with 45 milliseconds in latency. Viasat and HughesNet, two Starlink competitors, had higher latency as Starlink’s satellites are closer to the Earth’s surface.
Starlink’s satellites hover closer to the Earth’s surface than the traditional options. This means that they can deliver a more capable internet connection and speed since it takes less time for a signal to travel between the Earth and space. Companies like HughesNet and Viasat rely on high-flying, geosynchronous orbits, where the satellites rotate along the planet.
Since their satellites rotate, HughesNet and Viasat can offer connections to a broader audience of countries. As expected, the higher distance produces a high latency. Starlink is hoping to get the best of both worlds, with latency and coverage. But, it will need to have more satellites to achieve this.
Starlink Isn’t Stopping Now
Starlink itself has a great incentive to cover broader distances as its service is now getting more adoption. Earlier this month, Starlink told officials at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it now serves about 90,000 users worldwide. The new numbers mark an increase of about 20,000 since last month when Elon Musk said that the company had 69,420 customers.
Besides the user numbers, Starlink now reportedly has over 500,000 orders and deposits globally. The numbers are undoubtedly encouraging, with Starlink now getting more traction even before launching fully.
SpaceX also offered an overview of its next-generation satellites to the FCC. As the company explained, the new satellites will be faster and have lower latency. They will also feature more backhaul capacity in order to serve more customers. SpaceX is hoping to launch the satellites with its Starship rockets soon, especially with its Starship being able to take up to a staggering 400 satellites at a time.
Compared to Falcon 9 and its capacity to take about 60 satellites a time, this will be a big upgrade. SpaceX first announced the next-generation satellites in January, and the company seems to be gearing up for a launch soon enough.
Paving the Way for Global Expansion
Expansion is already on the way for Starlink. The Telegraph reported earlier this month that Starlink had gotten a license to construct a satellite ground section in the Isle of Man. Success with this means that Starlink could be able to provide coverage to the entire of Great Britain.
Starlink is especially focusing on areas like northern Britain, where broadband internet doesn’t get to normally. The Isle of Man is located in the western part of northern Britain. So, by transmitting from there, Starlink will be able to capitalize on the island’s small population and freer airwaves so its signal will be able to get to the rural areas easily.
Currently, Starlink has bases in Cornwall and Buckinghamshire. A third ground station will mean that the company will be able to beam down its network to all of the United Kingdom. Of course, it will still need to compete with several players - including OneWeb, an internet service owned by the British government that also operates satellites in the lower part of Earth’s orbit.
Starlink is hoping to launch as many satellites to cover the planet by September. So far, the company is doing pretty great.