After launching 600 satellites of the Starlink constellation, which are expected to hold around 12,000, SpaceX in July launched a beta version of the service for delivering high-speed Internet from space. Several tests have been carried out by many players, such as Speedtest.net, to find out the network latency and the speed it offers. This week, SpaceX confirmed that the beta is indeed underway and that it offers extremely low latency with speeds above 100 Mb / s. These speeds are higher than those observed by other testers.
Starlink is SpaceX’s project to provide high-speed internet from space. It confirmed during its last launch webcast on Monday that employees tested Starlink’s latency and download speeds, key metrics for an Internet service provider. SpaceX provided an update on early tests of its satellite Internet network, which showed speeds capable of playing online video games and streaming movies. SpaceX senior certification engineer Kate Tice said the test results “are very good”.
“The results showed very low latency and download speeds of over 100 Mbps. This means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games, but also our download speeds are fast enough.” to stream multiple HD movies at the same time, ”Tice said. She also noted that the network the company is deploying is “very advanced,” and that SpaceX hopes to “unlock the full capacity” of the Starlink network while it continues to launch the satellites.
In addition, while there are still a large number of satellites to deploy, SpaceX is already exploring other use cases for its constellation. Indeed, Tice also said that the company recently conducted a test to see if it can connect two orbiting satellites with what SpaceX calls “space lasers.” Also known as inter-satellite links, lasers will be used to improve the Starlink network by allowing it to exchange data between orbiting satellites, rather than transmitting them back and forth to the ground.
“With these space lasers, the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data,” Tice said. She added that when SpaceX has space lasers that work consistently across the network, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world. Additionally, SpaceX plans to begin a public beta test of Starlink once the current private beta test is complete. It plans to start offering Starlink as a commercial service before the end of this year.
The areas primarily affected are the northern United States and southern Canada, with plans for “near global coverage of the inhabited world in 2021”. Latency observed during testing was not disclosed here, but it is assumed that the latency Tice rated as extremely low is less than 20 milliseconds, corresponding to the latency initially targeted by the company. As a reminder, in August, the tests carried out by Speedtest.net revealed latencies ranging from 31 to 94 milliseconds. At that time, however, Starlink only had 600 satellites.
Elon Musk and his people seem to have taken on the challenge of delivering a high-speed Internet connection with top speed 100 Mbps and latency of less than 20 milliseconds through Starlink. Note that last May, the FCC questioned SpaceX’s ability to do so and took the opportunity to classify SpaceX and all other satellite operators in the category of high latency providers, including latency greater than 100ms. The company also told the FCC in July that SpaceX is building 120 satellites per month.
It also sets up thousands of small terminals that consumers will use to connect to the network. SpaceX said it has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Starlink to date”. Finally, this summer, the company said Starlink is already seeing “tremendous demand from potential customers with nearly 700,000 people across the United States.” According to SpaceX, these people have indicated that they are interested in the company’s upcoming service. So, is SpaceX gaining ground relative to Amazon, OneWeb, and others in delivering high-speed internet from space?