The Starlink network is being built by SpaceX, a private space company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. SpaceX plans to launch thousands of satellites into orbit in order to provide global coverage for the Starlink network. But how does it work? In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth understanding of how Starlink Internet works and why it could be the game-changer for remote communities or anyone looking for high-quality (but premium) internet services. So buckle up and let’s explore this exciting new frontier!
What is Starlink Internet?
Starlink Internet works by using a network of low-Earth orbit satellites to provide high-speed internet to users on the ground. The satellites, which circulate in a circular orbit at an altitude of about 550 kilometers, has an approximate mass of less than 300 kilograms and has an engine to reach and maintain its position in its orbit and reduce it at the end of its life (about 6 years) in order to be destroyed by its atmospheric reentry. The user terminal is based on a phased array antenna with a mechanical device for height orientation.
So far, SpaceX has launched over 800 satellites into orbit and has begun beta testing in select locations around the world. If you live in an area where beta testing is taking place, you can sign up for the Starlink waiting list to be notified when it becomes available.
The Starlink system is based on a network of earth stations that provide the link between the satellites and the Internet. In standard operation (without the use of inter-satellite links), a satellite can only play its role if it can communicate with an earth station that allows it to be connected to the Internet. This involves building regularly spaced earth stations in the regions served. However, the service of a country is conditional on the authorization of the use of frequencies by its regulatory authorities. Political considerations may also come into play. Countries hostile to the United States (e.g. China, Russia) or those who want to have full control of publicly available information (e.g. China) oppose the implementation of Starlink on their national territory. In addition, given the necessary investment, Starlink favours countries where there is a sufficiently large customer base with the financial means involved.
To receive the signal, you need a special antenna that’s about the size of a pizza box. The antenna is connected to your router, and from there you can connect to the internet just like you would with any other type of broadband connection. Starlink is constantly expanding its coverage area, so if you’re not in an area where it’s available yet, keep checking back.
The newer satellites are equipped with lasers that transmit data back and forth at high speeds, providing internet speeds of up to 350 Gbps.
Pros and Cons of Starlink Internet
A single satellite is sufficient to serve the entire area with the only limit being the number of users using the service simultaneously. In addition, the wave beams can be concentrated on the regions where potential users are located. However, the use of the geostationary orbit also has disadvantages. The main one stems from the altitude of the satellite (36,000 km) which causes a significant delay in the circulation of signals because they must make the round trip between the ground station and the satellite and then between the latter and the terminal of the user of the internet service. The latency, which can reach 600 milliseconds, significantly degrades responsiveness during video calls (video conferencing) or the use of online games. In addition, the polar regions cannot be served because the waves are forced to pass through a large atmospheric layer.
The deployment of such a large constellation of satellites in low orbit raises several problems given that the number of satellites in low orbit will be increased tenfold by the mere presence of Starlink satellites (in target configuration of 40,000 satellites). The risk of collision between satellites will increase in significant proportions that make existing anti-collision devices inadequate. Astronomical observations by large terrestrial observatories are hampered, especially programs for surveying and monitoring celestial objects.
Starlink is a costly option of internet connection.