844 low latency Starlink satellites: Musk changes rural possibilites

Starlink latency averages 30 ms, similar to 5G’s reality. Speeds measure up to 100 Mbps, although some only get half that. Upstream is usually 10-40 Mbps. Caps haven’t been specified but will almost certainly be higher than current satellite offerings.

By most standards, the performance is decent. A Redditer posts

Starlink is 600x better than my current ISP BEFORE you consider data cap. My jaw dropped when I saw the official numbers. I live in a rural village in Alaska and pay around $200/mo for service that is running fast if it hits 500kbps with a 40GB data cap.
Half the price for up to 300x faster service? Elon please start launching some polar orbits.

Heavy video watchers may need to add satellite broadcast as well, depending on the bandwidth cap. It is definitely a reasonable choice where the cost of fiber or decent wireless is prohibitive. That’s about one million locations in the US.

Beta testers are being charged $500 for the terminal and $99/month. That’s high: Most wireless or wired Internet in the US costs $50-80, including equipment.

Starlink is building 4 satellites/day, looking to add 600 more in the current phase one. It’s applied to launch many more. Musk’s current Falcon 9 rocket can launch 60 satellites at a cost of perhaps $1 million each. Starship, currently under test, has a higher capacity and lower unit cost.

Some of the projects in the 2009 broadband stimulus cost over $10000 per home passed. Ernesto Falcone of EFF believes that will pay off in the long run.

Satellite is for locations where fiber or good wireless is too expensive.

Cable at 100-1000 Mbps covers about 92% of the US. A surprising number of rural communities have fiber, sometimes subsidized by RUS of state programs. That leaves 4-7 million American homes that can’t get cable or fiber.

Some of those homes could be reached for <$2000, which is profitable for the carrier without a subsidy. Smart policy would require that.

It looks like the FCC will subsidize up to $4-5000 in the current funding round and upgrade about half to 100 Mbps or better. The question is what to do for the 1-4 million not likely to be reached?

4G wireless now covers some of them with 50 Mbps or better. Midband 5G will take that up to over 100 Mbps for many. (T-Mobile mid-band is now averaging 300 Mbps on a lightly loaded network.)

The open question is how much subsidy should be provided for satellite, fiber, or wireless.

Morgan Stanley believes SpaceX is spending $10 billion to build the network and inevitably will lose money in early years. But they expect the result will be a company worth $50-100 billion. (I don’t see broadband to extreme rural areas being worth that, but have no way to guess what the military will pay.

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