Ever since its inception in 2019, Starlink has become one of the most preferred internet services across the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world. Even business owners are making the most of the seamless internet services offered by Starlink.
The internet speed is phenomenal, it can challenge the remaining well-settled internet businesses. However, like any other satellite internet provider, an increased number of users may lead to reduced speeds and bring about inefficiency to consumers.
Consumers need to limit their internet consumption, and many times, the service provider restricts it. This concept is referred to as data caps.
After increasing its prices, citing inflation, Starlink, in the next move, has also begun a data cap for the most demanding users to pay for a premium service. A standout between Starlink and its competitors was its provision of unlimited data. However, things have changed!
Now that Starlink is limiting the consumption of data for customers, they need not worry. To ensure the users are not impacted by a small number of high data users, the company has implemented a for-use policy for the residential users of the United States and Canada.
Let us understand the concept of data cap.
What is Data Cap?
A data cap or bandwidth cap is a package provider-imposed limit on the total amount of data consumed by a user account at a particular time over a given period for a stated fee.
They are applicable on both domestic internet and other mobile data plans. Data caps are usually levied as a maximum allowed amount of data to be consumed every month for a charge agreed upon by the consumer and company.
As a rule, the users are prone to higher rate charges for further data use when they exceed the limit. However, the internet provider may not charge overage but throttle the users’ transfer rate per second beyond the specified data limit.
As a result, data caps lead to lower access rates to online materials, especially when it comes to multimedia and streaming content – a big problem for content creators and their advertisers.
Data caps are already popular in terrestrial internet service providers. Thus, it is not surprising that a giant like Starlink introduced some of its services. This abrupt policy change was initially not welcomed by the subscribers in areas where they do not have any other high-speed data services. As a result, they had no choice but to learn to live with the caps.
SpaceX started launching its Starlink mega constellation in 2019, and a year later, it launched the beta access internet. With more than 3,000 satellites in the lower orbit, Starlink has plans to achieve worldwide coverage. However, the operation of Starlink’s services is likely to become more expensive than anticipated.
The company has already communicated its plan of data capping to users across the United States and Canada, outlining the so-called Fair Use policy and what it means.
The policy describes how residential users will start each month with ‘Priority Access’ and proceed with ‘Basic Access’ for the remaining monthly billing period if they exceed the data usage of 1TB.
So, what does basic access mean?
As per the company, it means they will get deprioritized in terms of usage and experience slower internet speed when there is heavy use of the network. Starlink notes that the data consumed during off-peak times, especially between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. will be counted within the 1 TB bracket monthly priority bucket.
When launched first, Starlink didn’t have any provisions related to data capping. However, like all ISPs, it reserved the right to manage its network as necessary. As per the company, about 10 percent of the users consume over 1TB of monthly data.
Other users face tougher restrictions. Fixed business service has peak-hour caps ranging from 500GB to 3TB, with extra full-speed data costing $1 per gigabyte.
Mobility users have no priority access for recreational use. On the flip side, commercial and premium/maritime users have 1TB and 5TB data caps, respectively. All the higher-end users will have to pay $2 for every gigabyte of priority data they need.
How to Avoid Network Deprioritization?
Per the company’s rules, the peak hours of internet usage are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Data used during that time will count against the 1TB cap, but nothing used overnight will be included in the monthly allocation. When presented with large downloads, it is apt to time them to ease the strain. If the limit is exceeded, the company offers two options.
- SpaceX has not specified how slow your connection will become if you are lowered down to the basic access plan, but the speed will become miserably slow, and you might not be able to enjoy the internet service of Starlink at all.
- If you want more data, you can pay $0.25 per GB. It is a significant premium over the 1TB of included data at $110.
You may assume it as a sign that the company may become costlier than ever in the coming years or maybe months.
Elon Musk, the CEO, complained about the cost of offering bandwidth to the terminals sent to Ukraine, stating it costs $4,500 per month to offer service to each terminal. It exceeds the $110 residential fee and the $2,500 monthly cost for business-tier service. SpaceX previously offered speeds of over 50-100Mbps. However, now the speeds have reduced to 20-100Mbps.
Currently, the company has introduced data capping on some Starlink plans only, and the remaining ones can rest assured about enjoying a seamless internet experience.
In September, download speeds experienced by Starlink users saw a significant slowdown over previous months in the U.S. and Canada. The issue was accredited to high levels of congestion brought about by Starlink’s popularity among users.
The Ookla speed tester survey indicated that Starlink’s median download rate in the U.S. saw drops from over 90 Megabits per second to about 62.5 Mbps between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022.
The drops were observed in all other countries under the survey. Though it is a purely good strategy for SpaceX to set a data cap as more users enter the service, Starlink is presently struggling to achieve the said 100 Mbps internet speeds for many users, even at the standard price – so it’s also understandable that many early adopters of the service will feel a little shortchanged.
Third-party network analytics, Ookla noted that Starlink’s media speeds greatly reduced in every country during the past year. Ookla cites user growth as the primary reason behind the overall decline. Starlink is looking to improve the situation by limiting high-volume users, representing a mere 10% of its current customer base.
With or without the concept of data caps, Starlink will continue to grow as an exceptional internet service as more additional satellites are launched into orbit. As per a report, the company communicated that for it to serve most people with high-speed internet, it must manage the network to balance the supply of the internet with respective user demands.
To achieve this perfection, the company has announced the data cap policy for the users. Furthermore, Spacelink is also introducing a data use monitoring method through your user accounts page to enable the customers to track how close they are to their data cap.