There might be a lot of haters for Elon Musk. But we have to admit the dude is doing something right. A few months ago, a single tweet by Musk brought down the share value of Tesla Motors and cost the company billions of dollars. Musk him-self lost more than a a Billion due to his own social media vigilantism. Then a few days ago, the unthinkable happened. Musk earned more than a Billion dollars in less than an hour when the share prices of his companies Tesla and SpaceX went up. Musk is a visionary. He invests in the future. He revolutionized Private Space Travel. He is building the world’s most profitable and sustainable solar energy network. He is making electric vehicles that are giving tough competition to Big Oil. And now he is about to radically change the internet with Starlink. The much talked about internet service just released its internet speeds.
And they are impressive to say the least.
Elon Musk had been planning something on the lines of Starlink since a decade. The Starlink project involved launching thousands of mass produced small scale satellites into space. The satellites will work with ground transmitters and receivers to cover the entire planet. The end goal of Starlink is to provide a low latency, high fidelity internet network that will work no matter where you are. You could be in the jungles of Amazon or the icy caves of Antarctica. Starlink will give you the same internet speeds throughout no matter the date, place or time.
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The entire cost of the project as claimed by SpaceX is said to be more than $10 Billion US. That is a lot of money and Elon needs to recoup the investments with a hefty profit margin. The satellite network is taking its baby steps. The production of the low scale satellite began only 5 years ago in 2015. It was in Februrary 2018 that the first two satellites were launched. SpaceX is speeding up the deployment with a second set of 60 satellites launched into the low earth orbit. It was the first mass deployment of Starlink satellites. Backed up SpaceX’s rockets, the project will start launching more and more satellites into orbit in the coming years.
The amount of investment needed to create such a massive satellite internet network meant Elon Musk would also have to attract investors from the military and industrial complex. On the 15th of October last year, United States Federal Communications Commission submitted filings to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) for additional spectrum coverage for about 30,000 more Starlink satellites. That is apart from the 12,000 satellites already approved by the ITU. Musk and SpaceX sure have a lot of faith in this new age internet network.
But the question is – how fast is the global internet service of the future? Does it even have what it takes to prove its tall claims or are we looking at a dud here. The beta test speeds of the initial prototype network have been released and they show some promise.
When Elon Musk talked about Starlink, everybody thought it was too good to be true. The beta test speeds of the initial network prove the same. The way in which the project was promoted made us believe that the Starlink internet speed will be mythical and legendary. Far from it, the actual net speed of the satellite network is slower than what was expected. But that is not a bad thing. Now we know that the project does look a little grounded and believable. Moreover, the actual good news is that Starlink’s internet speed is still miles ahead than any other satellite internet service provider’s speed as of now.
This is while Starlink is only about a few hundred satellites strong. Mind you, the network is still in its beta testing phase and the speed is still extremely fast in comparison to the competitors working on the same domain. The 600 strong network will be getting an influx of new satellites batches in successive SpaceX launches scheduled for later this year. The network intends to go operational and ready to use by the end of this year.
Coming to the aspect of speed, the beta test’s results were leaked online and they show a ping sped rate ranging from 20 to 94. To put matters into perspective, in comparison, the current average internet browsing sped for broadband connections in supposed to be 100 ms. For gaming enthusiasts that are into competitive gaming, speeds under 20 ms are advisable. Musk has gone on record to state that the speed of the Starlink network once it reaches an optimal strength will be more than 1 GB per second for every user. Reddit revealed that the current download speed for Starlink is 11 to 62 Mbps. The upload speed varies from 6 to 18 Mbps.
The test results prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the Starlink Satellite Network has a better internet speed that any other satellite internet provider. The speed of Musk’s new venture is comparable to speedy broadband connections. It is also way cheaper than anything in the market. Starlink literally combines the best of both worlds – Broadband Connections’ speed and Satellite Internet Connections’ accessibility.
There is potential here. The FCC had earlier stated their doubts of the claims by Starlink to provide ping speeds under the coveted 100 ms mark. With only a600 or so satellites, Starlink has proven that it is already speeding up to its goals. The current speeds are not as fast as the original claims were but they do have a better shot at having a global outreach. No other satellite internet service provider could now match to Starlink’s core competencies.
There have been some complains about the massive Starlink network being built by SpaceX. There is always the issue of space debris. To ensure the satellite network does not clog up the upper orbit, Musk has opted for the Starlink satellites to be placed in an unusually low earth orbit position. The satellites also come with anti-reflective shades. The maximum span of the Starlink satellites is 5 years, after which they will start falling off into the atmosphere and burn up on re-entry. This means that SpaceX has to keep launching the Starlink satellites into orbit every year to maintain the strength of the herd. As long as they keep their promises, we will not be complaining.
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Starlink, for now, seems to be the Next Gen internet Service the world deserves and needs. Let’s see if Elon Musk could help us get there.