Folks who are tired of relying on underground cables for fast internet might finally have a good alternative.
In general, the kind of fixed broadband internet that powers much of the United States — you know, internet that uses cables and whatnot — is still the best way to go online. Starlink’s growing satellite internet network, operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is starting to catch up.
Speedtest released its second quarterly report of 2021 measuring Starlink’s median download speeds and latency for its growing customer base of about 90,000 users, and the trends are promising. [Note: Speedtest and Mashable are both owned by the same parent company, Ziff Davis.] For the first three months of the year, the median download speed for Starlink internet in the U.S. was 65.72Mbps. Now, just a few months later, that’s ballooned to 97.23Mbps.
If you’re curious how that compares to other satellite internet providers in the U.S., Speedtest says competitors HughesNet and Viasat came in at 19.73Mbps and 18.13 Mbps, respectively. That’s…a significant margin between first and second place. That said, fixed broadband still reached a higher nationwide median speed of 115.22Mbps, so there’s still a ways to go before Starlink is really neck-and-neck with more traditional internet connections.
Latency is one area where Starlink still needs to make serious strides to compete with fixed broadband, unfortunately. For those not in the know, latency is a measurement of network responsiveness in milliseconds. High latency causes lag in online video games and video calls, to give a couple of common everyday examples. Starlink’s median latency came in at 45ms, well below the fixed broadband equivalent of 14ms. By contrast, HughesNet and Viasat measured in the hundreds in this regard, so it’s still an improvement.
There doesn’t seem to be a quick and easy explanation as to why Starlink’s speeds jumped so much between Q1 and Q2, but it’s reasonable to assume increased deployment and ongoing maintenance have caused the network to settle in and improve over time.
Starlink recently outlined plans to launch newer, more advanced satellites that should, in theory, improve upon the metrics listed above. So anyone looking to boost their internet signal in rural areas should keep an eye on that in the months ahead. Whether or not you feel that’s worth the amount of satellite pollution Starlink is creating is up to you.