SpaceX Starlink Satellite Internet Review

SpaceX’s Starlink internet might not meet expectations for some, but it’s still a promising rural internet option.

Starlink
SpaceX Starlink
  • pro
    Fast download speeds
  • pro
    Unlimited data
  • con
    Steep equipment cost
Catherine McNally
Feb 09, 2024
Icon Time To Read11 min read

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Starlink satellite internet service is finally out of beta, but many folks are still waiting for their equipment kit and service. While we all wait for service to reach our neighborhood, let’s dig into what we know about Starlink satellite internet so far.

Need satellite internet now?
Provider
Best for
Price
Download speed
Details
Viasat

Fastest satellite internet speeds

$69.99-$299.99*12-100 Mbps
HughesNet

Budget-friendly low-end plans

$49.99-$79.9950-100 Mbps
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Pricing not available in all areas.

As SpaceX continues to launch satellites into orbit to expand and support its blossoming satellite network, there’s potential for even more improvements. So despite the wait times, we think Starlink is worth keeping an eye on, especially if your home internet access options are limited.

How to sign up for Starlink

Starlink's service isn’t available at your home address yet, you can put down a $99 deposit to be first in line when it arrives.

While we’re not normally fans of preorders or putting money down on something we can’t yet get, the $99 deposit is refundable.

And, once you get the service, your $99 goes toward your equipment purchase price of $599. (If you put down a deposit toward the original $499 equipment price, your kit cost becomes $549.)

Even so, keep in mind that your deposit doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get Starlink internet access any time soon—or at all. And orders are first-come, first-served, so you might still have to wait even when Starlink satellites swarm your neighborhood skies.

Currently, wait times for Starlink service are extended out through early 2023 due to chip shortages. 

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Starlink prices

Starlink prices have recently become a bit confusing, and here's why.

The company recently raised prices for its basic plan, Starlink Standard, so the monthly cost is now $120 (up from $99 a month). And the equipment cost rose from $499 to $599.

There are three Starlink plans aside from its residential service: a business plan and two RV plans. The business tier of premium Starlink services costs a whopping $500 to $1,500 a month (yes, one-five-zero-zero), and the equipment cost skyrockets to $2,500. 

At $150 a month, Starlink's RV service won't cost you anywhere close to its business prices. And its hardware and shipping price for RV service is the same as Starlink's residential service.

Even the prices for Starlink's new Roam internet plans aren't too steep, offering you sattelite internet on-the-go for only $150–$200 a month.

SpaceX Starlink satellite internet prices
Plan
Price
Download speed
Equipment cost
Data cap
Starlink Standard$120/mo.20-100 Mbps$599Unlimited
Priority 40 GB$140/mo.40 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Priority 1 TB$250/mo.40 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Starlink for RVs Regional$150/mo.5-50 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Starlink for RVs Regional$150/mo.5-50 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Starlink Roam$150–$200/mo.5–50 Mbps$2,500Unlimited
Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.

The recent bump in prices for the basic Starlink internet plan is due to inflation. It's also likely that the price rose due to the high cost of manufacturing the Starlink equipment as well as the company trying to market the Starlink Business plan as more of a Starlink premium tier.

There’s also something called the Starlink Best Effort Plan. Basically, if you preordered Starlink but live in an area where residential service is already at capacity, you can pay Starlink Standard prices for slower speed while you wait to move to the regular service.

How do Starlink prices compare to Viasat and Hughesnet?

Starlink satellite internet costs $120 a month for download speeds of 20–100 Mbps. To compare, a satellite internet plan from Viasat ranges from $60 to $200 a month for download speeds of 12 Mbps up to 150 Mbps, and HughesNet plans range from about $50 to $150 a month for download speeds of 50–100 Mbps.

Does Starlink cost more than Viasat and Hughesnet?
Provider
Price
Download speed
Data cap
The logo for SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet$120/mo.20-100 MbpsUnlimited
Viasat$69.99-$299.99*12-100 MbpsUnlimited
HughesNet$49.99-$79.9950–100 MbpsUnlimited
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 2 weeks or more to fulfill.
* Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Pricing not available in all areas.

But while Starlink’s monthly cost is more reasonable considering the speeds you get,  its $599 equipment cost may put it just out of reach for some.

And for now, Starlink doesn’t currently offer an equipment rental option, while both Viasat and Hughesnet do.

Satellite internet equipment costs comparison
Provider
Equipment purchase price
Equipment rental fee
Equipment lease setup fee
The logo for SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet

$599.00

N/A

N/A

Viasat

$299.99 (lifetime lease)

$12.99/mo.

$99.00

HughesNet

$299.99–$449.98

$14.99–$19.99/mo.

$99.00

Where is Starlink available?

Starlink service is now available throughout the US. And as for countries where Starlink is offered, the service has expanded to quite a few:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States

Starlink also says it is available to “all of the countries in the Baltics” and “several countries in South America.” And, for now at least, Starlink is keeping some satellites over Ukraine.

starlink satellite internet availability

Source: Starlink

Starlink internet speed and data

Starlink advertises download speeds of 20 to 100 Mbps for its basic plan, and speeds of 40 to 220 Mbps for its premium plan.

Of course, your actual Starlink internet speeds might be slower or faster than what's advertised. Some customers have seen speeds slower than 50 Mbps—and some even saw speeds faster than 150 Mbps.

In a recent report, speed test company Ookla reported that Starlink download speeds hit 164 Mbps in the US during the last third quarter of 2022.

Starlink download speeds, upload speeds, and latency2
Measurement
Advertised range
Median speed or latency
Download speed 20-100 Mbps105 Mbps
Upload speed 15 Mbps12 Mbps
Latency 20–40 ms 40 ms

Data effective 02/27/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

This finally brings Starlink's latency down to its advertised range of 20 to 40 ms, leagues better than other satellite providers with a median latency between 627 to 725 ms.

  • Starlink median latency: 40 ms
  • Viasat median latency: 627 ms
  • Hughesnet median latency: 725 ms

Related: Learn more about how Starlink’s satellites create lower latency

These speed results make Starlink a possibly worse choice compared to DSL, cable, and fiber internet. But if your only rural internet option is another satellite provider or fixed wireless, Starlink is swooping in for the save.

And keep in mind that Starlink is still deploying satellites and ground stations while working out the kinks. As more satellites reach Earth’s orbit and more ground stations are built, Starlink users will likely see improved download speeds and lower latency.

A Reddit member asked a Starlink representative whether Starlink internet users would see slower speeds once more users sign up. The representative said the service will not get overcrowded, and said that the network will get “increasingly great, not increasingly worse” as more satellites are launched.

Data caps

The Starlink FAQ explicitly states that Starlink internet comes with no hard data caps or deprioritization, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Each of Starlink's service plans provides a specific amount of "Priority Access" data every month, which will have, you guessed it, priority over what Starlink calls "Basic Access" data. Once your Priority Access data has depleted, you will have unlimited Basic Access data for the rest of your billing cycle.

And as their names suggest, users with Basic Access data will experience slower speeds during congestion than Priority Access users. Nobody loves when their data speeds slow, but rest easy that with Starlink you'll still have unlimited service with no hard data caps.

Data caps are a huge deal with satellite internet because they’re often much smaller than you’d find with traditional ISPs—Viasat currently offers the most monthly data of 1,000 GB.

That means you need to watch your data usage like a hawk with traditional satellite internet providers—but not with Starlink. Of course, we still wonder if unlimited Starlink data will eventually go away.

Starlink contracts, equipment, and fees

Starlink satellite internet service doesn’t require a contract—a major step up from the other satellite internet providers. (Though, to be fair, both Viasat and Hughesnet offer a no-contract plan, but it costs quite a bit extra.)

You can even cancel your service and return your equipment within 30 days for a full refund of your equipment fee. You can also get your $99 deposit refunded if you sign up for Starlink and cancel before service reaches your area.

We’re glad a full equipment refund is offered, because Starlink’s dish and router don’t come cheap.

Starlink customer equipment

Your Starlink equipment kit comes with a satellite dish and router that costs $599 plus shipping and handling. Our preorder cost breakdown showed a $50 shipping and handling fee, which isn’t awful, but that puts Starlink’s total equipment cost above the $600 mark.

  • Starlink satellite dish and router cost: $599 plus shipping and handling

In a Q&A session, Musk noted that the dish costs more than $1,300 to make. This high cost has spurred Starlink to get to work on a new terminal that costs less but provides the same level of performance.

However, since SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell mentioned that the company would like to drop the price for equipment, inflation has taken a turn and Starlink equipment costs rose.

Musk described the satellite dish as a “UFO on a stick,” and noted that the dish has built-in motors that allow it to position itself at the best angle for your location.

Starlink Satellite Internet Review

Best of all, the dish can be self-installed using the Starlink app. While Viasat and Hughesnet require a professional to come and install your dish, you’re able to take a  plug-and-play approach with the Starlink dish.

Starlink On the App Store | Starlink On Google Play

The Starlink dish works best in 22° below up to 104°F
Heads Up

Starlink’s satellite dish heats itself up when it gets cold so that snow melts off. But its performance in high heat has seen some Starlink beta hopefuls’ dreams melt away.

A beta tester in Arizona lost internet service when his dish overheated in the 120° weather, and another user in Virginia saw their dish overheat in 80-degree weather.

Starlink satellites and ground terminals

It wouldn’t be satellite internet without satellites, and Starlink has a ton of them. Each satellite is about as big as your office desk and weighs close to 500 pounds—that means the January 2020 Falcon 9 mission carried 30,000 pounds of satellites into space.

Sixty Starlink satellites inside a Falcon 9 rocket's nose cone

60 Starlink satellites are flat-packed into a Falcon 9 nose cone.
Source: Elon Musk/X

Starlink’s goal is to build a megaconstellation of 42,000 satellites to power its internet service across the world. Compared to Viasat and Hughesnet, which rely on a few large satellites to create an internet network, Starlink relies on a web of thousands of smaller satellites that surround the Earth.

An image of a globe shows where Starlink satellites are in orbit
Spot and track Starlink
Light Bulb

Starlink may be harder to spot in the night sky now thanks to its dimmed lights, but you can use an online app called Find Starlink to track satellites across the globe and near your location.

Along with a massive convoy of satellites, Starlink service relies on ground terminals.

SpaceX originally filed a request with the FCC for 1 million Earth stations, or ground terminals. But thanks to the massive number of beta test applicants, the company amended its request to ask the FCC for permission to build 5 million Earth stations.

A row of Starlink ground terminals, white spheres sitting on a concrete pad

These ground terminals feature white, spherical antenna radomes, which protect the sensitive equipment inside. Current and future sites of Starlink Earth stations include:

  • Hawthorne, California
  • Limestone, Maine
  • Conrad, Montana
  • Panaca, Nevada
  • Beekmantown, New York
  • Greenville, Pennsylvania
  • Kalama, Washington
  • North Bend, Washington
  • Redmond, Washington
  • Merrillan, Wisconsin
  • Evanston, Wyoming

Starlink customer service

Starlink’s customer service seems to be fairly self-serve. Many users on Reddit noted that you can’t even get a hold of anyone at Starlink until you become a customer, which makes asking questions beforehand difficult.

In fact, the only option for getting a hold of Starlink support is on the Starlink app. (Android | iOS) Even after scouring the web, we couldn’t find a dedicated Starlink support phone number or email.

A 2021 article on Business Insider may give us the best indication of how good or bad Starlink customer service is doing so far. And to be honest, it seems like current Starlink beta testers are getting a mixed bag when it comes to customer service.

Some customers got quick responses, but others had to wait days or even a week to hear back.

Many customers inquired about moving their dish to a new address other than the one they signed up with. And for reference, it seems like you can as long as you reapply for service at the new address.

Another common complaint is that the included power cable is only 100 feet long. And, as Tom’s Guide’s John R. Quain noted, the cable is attached to the dish, so you can’t simply replace it.

And don’t forget about service dropouts, which plague most every Starlink customer. Of course, the service is still in beta, so service dropouts are annoying but inevitable as SpaceX gets its satellites in order.

Need to recover your Starlink account?
Pin

If you forgot your Starlink account info, you can now request a password reset by using your account email, phone number, or alternate email address.

Recap: Will Starlink satellite internet be any good?

Starlink is an up-and-coming satellite internet provider that has a lot of great potential. We're keeping a watchful gaze to see if its equipment and service costs eventually drop, and we hope to see its waitlist period shorten.

  • Prices and plans: At $120 a month plus a $599 equipment fee, Starlink could be a tad expensive for some. But compared to other satellite internet providers, it offers great value for the price you pay.
  • Speed: Starlink’s download speeds advertise 20–100 Mbps with the potential for improved speeds.
  • Data caps: Starlink currently gives customers unlimited data, which is leaps and bounds beyond the next highest satellite internet data cap of 300 GB.
  • Contracts, equipment, and fees: Starlink comes with no contract, but its $599 equipment fee is steep. We hope to see a reduced cost for the dish and router in the future—or at least an option to rent.
  • Customer service: Customers have said that Starlink customer service is hit or miss: Sometimes you’ll get an immediate response, other times you’ll wait a week for a reply.

For more info about satellite-based internet services, check out Best Satellite and Internet Providers.

Starlink satellite internet price recap

  • Starlink: $120 a month, 20–100 Mbps download speeds, unlimited data

Data effective 02/27/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Starlink review methodology

To take a deep dive into Starlink’s beta testing, we took a look at reports from beta testers on the following features:

  1. Internet speed performance
  2. Customer service reports
  3. Equipment quality and issues

We also took a look at the official Starlink sign-up site and subreddit to learn more about where the beta test is currently available, how you can sign up, how much the service costs, and more.

While we’d love to get hands-on with Starlink and test it ourselves, we felt that these reports gave us a fairly accurate and in-depth look while we wait for service at our home address.

What do Americans think about switching to Starlink?

Many people are stuck with painfully slow speeds from local satellite, DSL, or cable internet providers and are in need of faster internet speeds and a better connection. So what does the nation think about signing up for the Starlink beta—even if it costs more? We surveyed Americans to find out what they think about Elon Musk’s satellite venture.

Starlink survey and speeds compared to broadband.

Over half of Americans say they’ll try Starlink if given the chance

Starlink internet is perfect for those who feel stuck with slow speeds from their internet provider—especially in rural areas where building out cable and fiber networks either takes a long time or is less likely to provide adequate coverage.

By offering nationwide satellite internet service with high speeds and low latency, Starlink may even pull more customers from other top internet providers.

Infographic showing sentiment toward Starlink internet.
  • 51% of internet users say they plan to sign up for Starlink once it becomes available to them.
  • While only 5% of Americans currently use a satellite internet connection, 64% of survey respondents say Starlink would make them reconsider their satellite internet stance.
  • 55% of non-satellite internet users say they’d switch to Starlink’s satellite internet service at a higher cost if it resulted in faster internet speeds for their household.

What are the most important factors in deciding whether to make the switch to satellite internet?

Common activities like browsing the internet, social media, and checking email don’t require blazing fast speeds, but other internet services may require more bandwidth than DSL, satellite, or other providers offer. And the more programs you have running, especially when they’re media or video-based, the faster internet speeds you’ll need to cover all your bases.

Top priorities for Starlink internet users.

Here's what Americans want Starlink’s faster internet speeds to cover:

  • 3 out of every 4 (74%) internet users want to stream high-quality video on platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.
  • 72% want to have high-quality video calls on platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime.
  • Over half (56%) want to play online video games with high performance.

With higher internet speeds and less latency than other providers, people are willing to dig into their wallets a bit more every month for Starlink if it means they can do what they want on the internet.

Switching to Starlink—people are willing to pay the price

  • 44% of survey respondents say they’d pay the $99/month price tag for Starlink internet if they were given an option to make payments on the $499 equipment fee.
  • Nationwide, the average internet speed is 57.2 Mbps. Starlink speed tests have shown an average speed of 103.1 Mbps—that means Starlink is 80% faster than the national average.
  • The average monthly internet bill is $65/month. Starlink is slated to cost $99/month.
  • The average American pays $1.13/Mbps per month for internet, while Starlink users would pay $0.96/Mbps per month.

Even though Starlink may be a bit heavier on the budget than the average internet service, our survey suggests that many Americans would be willing to pay more to get the internet speeds they need.

Methodology

The analysts at Reviews.org surveyed 500 Americans 18 and older to determine how they felt about Starlink’s satellite internet service offering compared to their existing internet connection type, speed, and price.

The survey has a sample error of ± 4.5% and a 95% level of confidence.

Starlink speed data was sourced from 168 speed test reports from various beta test users across the country.

FAQ

Still have questions about SpaceX Starlink satellite internet? Let’s see if we can help.

Weather isn’t as huge an issue for satellite internet as some make it out to be, and Starlink is no exception.

The satellite dish is actually set up to operate in temperatures as low as 22° below zero and up to 104°F, though some beta testers reported losing service because their dish got too hot.

Starlink is a self-described “low-latency broadband internet system” versus a fixed broadband system.

You can technically game on satellite internet, and Starlink’s low latency makes that even more true.

Reported latency for Starlink was 40 ms, which is fairly reasonable even for a first-person shooter (FPS) game. The only things to watch out for? Slow download speeds (for patching or downloading new games) and service disconnects.

The latest Starlink median download speed reported by Ookla hit 105 Mbps, which is enough to stream Netflix or Disney+ even in 4K.

Just know that any other connected wireless device, like laptops, cell phones, or home security systems, will also use up some of that Starlink bandwidth and may put a cramp in your Loki binge session.

We don’t believe Starlink will replace 5G, since 5G internet service will likely be an easy way to connect a device to the internet in more urban areas. Starlink, on the other hand, will likely become a great option for those living in rural areas where 5G service doesn’t extend due to a lack of existing cell structures.

In fact, you could say that these two new internet services might complement each other. 5G’s short-distance networks are optimal for densely populated urban areas, and Starlink’s requirement that your dish have a line of sight to the sky is optimal for wide open, rural spaces.

Catherine McNally
Written by
Catherine McNally
Catherine has a degree in journalism and an MBA, and has spent the last 10+ years writing everything from Okinawa travel guides to stories on Medium. She’s been online since AOL CDs were a thing and is an unapologetic PC gamer. She believes the internet is a necessity, not a luxury, and writes reviews and guides to help everyone stay connected. You can also find her on Twitter: @CMReviewsIt.

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