Starlink Internet Review: Is It Worth the Cost? – CNET

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Starlink rating

How we calculated our rating Speed

6.5/10

Customer Care

7/10

Pros

  • Decent speeds for a rural connection
  • Low latency
  • Unlimited data
  • Mobile internet available

Cons

  • High upfront costs
  • Slower than cable or fiber internet
  • Vulnerable to inclement weather

Starlink internet plans and pricing

As one who has closely evaluated dozens, if not 100-plus, internet providers, I’ll say that Starlink’s monthly rate, not to mention the hefty equipment fee due at signup, is higher than average for home internet. Considering the expected speeds and cost per Mbps, Starlink is downright expensive compared to most top internet providers.

That said, it’s not a bad deal for rural internet, especially taking into account the unlimited data and low latency. If you’re outside the reach of cable or a local fiber internet service, Starlink is certainly worth a closer look once you get past the sticker shock.

Better service helps justify Starlink’s cost

While I’d like to see a bit more speed for the price, or a lower price altogether, Starlink adds value in areas where other satellite services cannot.

Starlink has the potential to offer moderately faster speeds than Hughesnet or Viasat (not to mention other popular rural internet options) with home internet speeds ranging from 25 to 220Mbps. For comparison, Hughesnet and Viasat top out at around 100Mbps in most areas.

Service also comes with truly unlimited data. The Standard home internet plan includes unlimited data while the Priority plan comes with 40GB, 1TB or 2TB of “priority” data depending on the tier you choose.

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Watch this: Testing Out SpaceX Starlink Satellite Internet

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Starlink setup seems surprisingly simple

Professional installation isn’t available with Starlink, but the self-install process seems fairly straightforward. Starlink offers several mounting options for rooftops, yards and the exterior of your home. There’s even a Starlink app for Android and iOS that uses augmented reality to help customers pick the best location and position for their receivers.

In 2021, CNET’s John Kim signed up for Starlink at his home in California and began testing it at various locations. At home, he averaged download speeds of around 78Mbps and latency of around 36ms. You can see more of his first impressions in the video above.

Starlink

Starlink availability: ready nearly everywhere in the US

According to Federal Communication Commission data from December 2023, Starlink is available to 99.6% of US households. That’s the highest coverage percentage of any internet provider, including Hughesnet and Viasat.

There are a few pockets, specifically in southern California, West Virginia and New Mexico, where service is “coming soon.” Still, Starlink’s coverage is impressive. I ran serviceability checks using addresses from California to Connecticut and down south in Alabama and rural Texas and received a response indicating that “Starlink is immediately available” every time.

Service isn’t limited to just the US. Per Musk, the list of countries currently served by the growing network of low-orbit satellites includes the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and others.

Starlink’s fleet expansion continues at a rapid rate

By the end of April, Starlink had launched just shy of 30 new satellite payloads in 2024, adding more than 600 new satellites to the fleet of nearly 6,000 functional satellites. There’s still a way to go. Starlink will likely need at least 10,000 satellites in orbit before it can claim to offer full service to most of the globe, and SpaceX has shown signs that it wants as many as 42,000 satellites in the constellation.

What does this mean for Starlink internet?

Ideally, Starlink’s coverage and speeds will improve with every launch. Starlink’s website says, “Starlink users typically experience download speeds between 25 and 220Mbps, with a majority of users experiencing speeds over 100Mbps.” The internet speed-tracking site Ookla reported that Starlink offered average download speeds of nearly 67Mbps in the US during the first quarter of 2023.

That’s down significantly from the end of 2021 when Starlink had median download speeds of just over 100Mbps. The drop may be the result of growing subscriptions and increased network congestion. Hopefully, average speeds will jump back up to around 100Mbps or higher soon as groups of new satellites are added to the fleet.

How does Starlink compare?

Starlink isn’t replacing your fiber, cable or even fixed wireless connections like Verizon 5G Home Internet and T-Mobile Home Internet just yet, or possibly ever. That doesn’t seem to be the intent behind the service. Starlink is best suited to provide a practical solution for broadband in underserved areas or in a mobile sense, where traditional wired or fixed wireless services are unavailable.

Such areas have previously had two internet options: Hughesnet or Viasat. Starlink has emerged as a third option, so how does it compare to its satellite internet rivals?

Hughesnet can be a bit cheaper per month than Starlink, with standard rates of $75 to $110 for max download speeds of 50 or 100Mbps. Viasat’s standard rates range from $100 to $400 per month depending on your plan, so Starlink may be a cheaper option than Viasat despite the faster speed potential, unlimited data and lower latency.

Pricing can be a toss-up between all three satellite providers depending on the ISP or plan you choose and the route you go with the equipment. Starlink holds the advantage in basically every other category, however, including max speeds, latency, data allowances and contract requirements.

What’s the final word on Starlink?

Starlink is an exciting and much-needed addition to rural internet’s long-limited landscape. Although service is slower and more expensive than many other providers and connection types, the relatively high speed potential, low latency, unlimited data and no contract requirements boost its value as a rural internet provider.

Starlink internet FAQs

Does bad weather affect Starlink?

Concern about the proliferation of privately owned satellites in space and controversy in astronomical circles about the impact of low-orbiting satellites on the night sky is not uncommon. 

In 2019, shortly after Starlink’s first broadband satellite deployment, the International Astronomical Union released an alarm-sounding statement warning of unforeseen consequences for stargazing and the protection of nocturnal wildlife.

“We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both,” the statement reads.

Since then, Starlink has begun testing various designs intended to reduce the brightness and visibility of its satellites. At the start of 2020, the company tested a “DarkSat” satellite with a special, non-reflective coating. Later, in June 2020, the company launched a “VisorSat” satellite that features a special sunshade visor. In August, Starlink launched another batch of satellites — this time, they all were equipped with visors.

“We want to make sure we do the right thing to make sure little kids can look through their telescope,” Shotwell said. “It’s cool for them to see a Starlink. But they should be looking at Saturn, at the moon … and not want to be interrupted.”

“The Starlink teams have worked closely with leading astronomers around the world to better understand the specifics of their observations and engineering changes we can make to reduce satellite brightness,” the company website reads.

Where can I learn more about Starlink?

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