SpaceX's Starlink internet speeds much slower than promised in first tests

Results from Speedtest do not yet match the 1Gbps promised by Elon Musk

Adam Smith
Monday 17 August 2020 12:27 BST
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SpaceX launches a fleet of starlink satellites into space

Users of Elon Musk’s Starlink internet connection have found that its speeds are not as fast as SpaceX previously hyped.

The technology uses a cluster of satellites, in orbit around the Earth, to deliver internet connections to users.

According to tests conducted by Ookla, and collated by Reddit users, download speeds have ranged from 11 Mbps to 60 Mbps, while upload speeds have ranged from from 5Mbps to 18Mbps. Latency tests show a range between from 31ms to 94ms.

SpaceX has previously claimed that download speeds will reach 1Gbps, with a latency ranging between 25 to 35 milliseconds – much faster than that which has been shown from the tests.

The company is yet to put its full fleet of satellites into orbit, and speeds are likely to increase as they do so. There are currently 540 Starlink satellites in orbit, with the company aiming to eventually form a 12,000-strong constellation.

Almost every test has been conducted from Los Angeles, California, apart from three which were reported from Seattle.

SpaceX previously asked for beta testers for its Starlink internet service, which uses low-orbit satellites to beam internet connectivity back to the planet.

Since these beta testers have to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to keep the results a secret, these tests are one of the only insights outside users will see into Starlink’s real world performance.

That said, these tests are only a small snapshot of all the Starlink internet speeds, and as such it remains unclear whether these are the speeds that users should expect when the service launches commercially. The Independent has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

“These tests do appear to be legitimate. In general, the information about a connection that is visible to a user during a test is rigorously vetted by our QA (quality assurance) team” speedtest website Ookla said.

However, despite the slow speeds compared to SpaceX’s previous comments, the results that are being seen in the test are still higher than most rural internet users receive. The average download speed in the United States was 33.88 Mbps according to Speedtest.

Starlink has recently caused some controversy because its low-orbit satellites have been interrupting photographs of comets, due to the fact they orbit closer to the Earth than other satellites, and has been the source of concern for astrophysicists.

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