Starlink, very high-speed satellite Internet access, is available in beta in the United States and has just obtained the necessary authorizations to launch in France. Date, price, flow, operation… we take stock of this issue!
Starlink is one of those projects that may well revolutionize internet access around the world. It is a question of delivering an Internet access offer relatively affordable for areas that are inaccessible, poorly served, or simply too peripheral to have internet access worthy of the name.
For now, Starlink is only available in beta in the United States. In France, Starlink has obtained the essential authorizations from Arcep, but the firm has yet to reveal the date of arrival of Starlink in France. It is nevertheless possible to register now on Starlink.com to find out when the service will be available in France.
In the USA, beta customers pay $ 99 subscription. We imagine a price of the same order in euros. This price does not include the connection kit billed at $ 499 and the commissioning fee of about fifty dollars.
The Starlink constellation is under construction. But, as the number of satellites increases, the constellation’s capacities also increase.
The first independent flow tests carried out in North America show that the bandwidth is on average around 150 Mbps descendants. However, Elon Musk promises that in the coming months the average speed will be doubled to 300 Mbps with a latency of around 20 ms.
Originally, Elon Musk presented Starlink as a service ultimately allowing speeds of up to 1 Gbps downstream. However, it appears that Starlink has since revised its targets upwards, and plans to eventually deliver a 10 Gbps internet connection, or as much as the fastest consumer internet access by fiber.
Starlink is the first constellation of satellites to have theambition to deliver very high speed internet access at very low latency across the globe. For this SpaceX must put into orbit around 12,000 satellites in low orbit by 2025. In total, including the 1,015 satellites already deployed by Starlink, there are only 2,000 active satellites around the Earth today.
And we do not count the authorization to launch several tens of thousands of additional satellites. Until now, the only satellites providing Internet access were placed in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 km. This has the advantage of being able to cover a large area with just one satellite. But this also has the drawback of necessarily causing a high latency (> 600 ms) due to its very high altitude while limiting the capacity of the infrastructure.
To avoid this, Starlink prefers to place a large number of satellites in orbit very close to Earth. A first fleet of satellites (7,500 in the long term) is thus planned at an altitude of 340 km. 1600 satellites must be placed at an altitude of 550 km. Finally. 2800 satellites must be placed at an altitude of 1150 km. The internet connection of a given user is provided by a succession of satellites scrolling at a high frequency.
To ensure the coordination made necessary by this movement, the satellites will communicate with each other by laser link. Communication with base stations and clients takes place through a so-called phased array antenna system. These can direct the signal without moving part. A motor in the customer’s dish nevertheless assists the orientation of the antenna for a better signal.
What equipment do I need to connect?
Starlink customers receive a extremely easy installation kit. It is composed of a motorized dish with phase control antenna array, a long Ethernet cable with PoE, a power brick that also serves as a PoE injector and a kind of switch. As well as a triangular shaped router.
All of these elements arrive already plugged in for simplicity. The instructions are pretty straightforward: place the dish outside, on the ground, or on your roof – so that it has a clear view of the sky. Open your smartphone, connect to the hardware and follow the instructions. The connection is established in seconds.
This kit isn’t free – it’s billed at $ 499.
On paper, in principle, nothing prevents Starlink from operating in town. However, this technology is generally unsuitable for dense areas, while it is ideal in sparsely populated or rural areas. The reason is simple: because they are closer to the ground, each of the satellites in the constellation covers a fairly small area.
However, in cities, this can potentially lead customers to saturate their satellite cell. Otherwise, Starlink’s rate is currently significantly higher than the cost of fiber internet access. So we can say without getting too wet that‘You will not be able to subscribe to Starlink at any time if you live in town.
Note that the help pages specify that you will not be able to really move your Starlink installation to another address. In any case, if the latter is outside your usual satellite “cell”. The delivery of internet access is indeed a kind of synchronized and coordinated dance of satellites appearing and disappearing in front of the antenna every second.
If you leave this cell, you will not find yourself in the right place to receive internet from one of the satellites programmed to serve you. You will therefore no longer have access to the service. So that means for those who are considering subscribe in their second home to enjoy it in town that unfortunately will not work.
Starlink underlines that it is a question of geometry, and not of a voluntary restraint. Even if de facto, this seems to arrange the service well since, as we explained above, Starlink is not suitable for heavily populated areas.
Read also: Starlink – satellite internet access will allow you to play streaming video games without latency
The various tests are beginning to be numerous enough that we can say that Starlink is relatively insensitive to the weather. Speed may drop slightly in case of heavy rains, snow, strong winds, and other weather events, but nothing, normally, which does not become prohibitive.
In addition the Starlink antenna can detect snow. A specific mode is then activated to melt it, to clear the view to the sky as much as possible, which strengthens its resilience to the elements. Starlink nevertheless notes in its help pages thatin the event of heavy snowfall, make sure that the snow has not accumulated too much around the dish.
For now, as Elon Musk revealed a few months ago, Starlink is technically functional only on “high latitudes”, that is to say the north of the United States and Canada, or Central and Northern Europe on this side of the Atlantic. Over time, Starlink will become available closer and closer to the equator, until we can truly speak of planetary coverage.
But if we explore this fascinating subject that is the cover of Starlink, it is also necessary to take into account its kinetic aspect. Unlike 5G antennas which are fixed, and whose coverage can be plotted on a map, the constellation of Starlink satellites is in perpetual motion. This interactive map gives you a very detailed idea of the coverage everywhere in the world at a given moment: