Frustrated by poor broadband services, internet consumers have opted for the best internet services. Starlink ranks among the best satellite internet providers available. SpaceX launched Starlink as an effective means of providing high-speed Internet in rural areas. Introduced in 2019, Starlink has gained the hearts of internet users and rates among the most preferred internet providers in the US and Canada.
Internet selection is something that brings about several considerations into play. To select an internet provider perfectly, you should understand the speeds presented, price range, installation, and maintenance cost, among many other factors.
When referring to satellite internet, latency becomes a vital aspect that should be checked. Satellite internet is slowly becoming the new way of internet access where latency is a vital factor in choosing the best Internet for you—Starlink internet rates at 45Ms compared to 700Ms of another satellite internet.
If you are wondering how to understand latency more, worry no more, as below is a full description of Starlink latency and its effects on internet consumption.
What Is Latency?
Latency is the time taken by a signal to travel from your workstation to a remote server such as the satellite and back. It factors in all online interactions though most people are less familiar with it than other internet speed measures, like bandwidth. Latency is also something other than what most internet service providers market, making it tricky to know where to look, even if you want a low-latency connection.
If this sounds a lot like “internet speed,” you are not entirely wrong. Both bandwidth and latency determine how fast data travels across a network, but they deal with a measure of different things and affect your online experience. Latency is a factor determined by four factors, which include:
- Distance covered
- Network congestion
- Transmission medium
- Total number of network devices
Every internet satellite and landline connection has to endure a one-time fixed cost. Any data traveling will take longer to extend to a server in Australia than one present nearby.
Latency can only partially be eliminated even if you optimize your network, as these physical limits are constant in data and signal transfer. This explains why satellite internet, which must send its signal into space and back, will always have to deal with more latency than other types of connections.
Starlink latency is the round trip data time between the user and the satellite. Starlink’s median latency rates at 45 milliseconds (ms) with fixed broadband of 14 Ms. when comparing the Viasat at 630 ms and Hughesnet at 724 ms, they are almost impractical for these purposes.
Why is there such a big difference? It is simple physics. Starlink utilizes low earth orbit satellite constellations, hovering above us at a relatively close 550 to 1,200 kilometers (km), while Hughesnet and Viasat have far higher geosynchronous orbits of about 35,000km.
Average latency is usually around 600ms, of which about 550ms is the cold, brutal, inescapable physics of sending a signal that travels at the speed of light on a 44,000-mile trip and then waiting for a reply that also makes a 44,000-mile trip. Elon Musk’s Starlink network uses a constellation of satellites in very low orbit. According to Elon Musk, the beta test of the partial Starlink network is currently hovering around 20ms latency.
Starlink is slower than cable or fiber-based internet. The median fixed-broadband in the US is 115.22Mbps with a latency of 15ms. Starlink was never meant to compete with Earth-bound internet in cities and suburbs. It was meant to offer an alternative to people living in the country. Lack of proper internet infrastructure makes rural users dial-up modems and DSL connections with speeds of little Kilobits per second (Kbps).
For these users, Starlink is the better choice. But Starlink is still being rolled out. This means some places will have stronger connections than others.
Starlink internet is greatly endorsed for its fast speeds and reduced latency, but how can they achieve this little amount of latency compared to their satellite internet provider counterparts? Some contributing factors to the reduced latency than other satellite internet providers include:
- The variance in the distance of satellite position – The satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Currently, 1,635 of 11,914 planned satellites are deployed and operational. They are located at an altitude between 540 and 570 km compared to the other satellite internet providers who have their satellites at higher geosynchronous orbits of about 35,000km.
- Increased network devices – The ground stations communicate with the satellites by providing internet access and control information. There are 92 operational ground stations connected using PoPs (Points of Presence).
- Self-adjusting dishes – The self-aligning technology enables the dish to tilt and spin to receive the best signal from the satellites without needing to aim it.
- Transmission medium – Starlink satellites are positioned in the lower orbit, making air the only obstacle for signal travel. Vacuum and air cause minimal latency fluctuations, and it is due to such that it is advisable to always put your dish in a direct line to the sky to avoid obstacles.
Although latency cannot be eliminated, it can be reduced. Starlink premium packages get users’ lower latency of 20-40Ms with additional prioritized customer support.
Starlink’s latency is relatively low because they have their satellites in the low earth orbit. They are closer to the earth’s surface than other satellites that orbit higher altitudes. This relates to less time for the signal to travel from the earth’s surface to the satellite and back.
Fibre has a much faster maximum and means speed than Starlink or any other satellite provider. Fibre has significantly less latency. Fibre offers a more stable connection.
The acceptable latency is about 40 – 60 Ms or lower, while speeds of over 100Ms, thus a noticeable lag in gaming.
Several metrics can be used when assessing the suitability of satellite internet technology for a given application. Metrics such as data throughput rates, coverage, latency, and cost of ownership, are examples of such metrics.
Latency is an important metric and should always be considered in the context of end-to-end link performance. In many cases, the optimum solution for the most robust network will involve hybridization: multiple transmission media working together to ensure that signals are delivered over the most appropriate path.
In such a way, Starlink satellites complement one another to deliver the best and most appropriate user experience. Accordingly, service providers and users must have the flexibility to determine the best technology for the incoming Starlink internet signals and services. Accordingly, technology neutrality must govern any regulatory regime to ensure that users can address their individual network needs