A new option for satellite internet is becoming more and more available every day. Starlink, one of the newest projects from Elon Musk and SpaceX is going to revolutionize the satellite internet industry, specifically in rural areas. Currently, the best choice for satellite internet locally, is HughesNet, which is famous for its slow speeds and high latency.

The way that Starlink works is a bit different than most satellite internet services. Instead of having one larger satellite in space, Starlink will have up to 12,000 smaller satellites, 60x closer to the earth. The satellites in space use radio waves to send information to individual satellite dishes, as well as ground stations that will distribute the internet even better.

While Starlink is not currently available to everyone, there are over 10,000 people enrolled in a beta program, which allows users to have early access to the service, albeit with possible issues. On their website, Starlink says, “During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.” While 50 to 150Mb/s download speeds certainly aren’t bad, and is better than anything HughesNet has to offer, that is slow compared to what Starlink hopes to have eventually. Musk said “Speed will double to ~300Mb/s & latency will drop to ~20ms later this year,” which is faster than any other satellite internet service, and faster than many cable internet service providers. In my most recent speed test with HughesNet, I got a download speed of 0.23 Mb/s which is insanely slow.

In addition to signing up for the beta program, you can also place a $99 pre-order, which guarantees you a spot on a first-come, first-serve basis once Starlink is available in your area. Once your order goes through, you will be charged an additional $400 plus tax and shipping, once you receive the package and you get set up, you will be charged around $100 a month to use the service.

As for the hardware itself, it’s pretty simple. You get a satellite dish, a router, a power supply, cables, and a mounting tripod. The satellite dish is meant to sit at ground level with a clear field of view, but can also be mounted to a roof if needed.

Starlink is definitely exciting for rural areas, but it could be problematic for urban areas, even the size of Farmington. In a rural area, you may have a satellite dish every handful of miles, whereas in a densely populated area, you’d have more satellites near each other trying to use that signal, so you will get lower speeds and higher latency.

In addition to residential applications, Starlink also has plans to be able to implement their service on vehicles with Musk saying, “This is for aircraft, ships, large trucks & RVs,”

Starlink is no doubt the future of satellite internet, with them hoping to have global coverage by the end of the year, and full coverage locally by mid-2021.