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SpaceX Starlink Satellite Internet Review 2021
SpaceX’s Starlink internet might not meet expectations for some, but it’s still a promising rural internet option.
We’ve updated our Starlink review with the most current numbers on download speed, data caps, and more. And hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on Starlink for some at-home testing soon. (We feel like we’re the only ones waiting for our address to win that lottery.)
Starlink is taking preorders for its service. Find out more about how to preorder Starlink, plus how much it costs.
Starlink satellite internet service is still in beta, and while initial test results were outstanding, some users now report slower speeds and higher latency than what was promised.
But as SpaceX continues to launch satellites to expand and support its blossoming satellite service, there’s potential for improvement. So we think Starlink is still worth keeping an eye on, especially if your internet service options are limited.
While we all wait for Starlink service to reach our neighborhood, let’s dig into what we know about Starlink satellite internet so far.
Fastest satellite internet speeds
|$30–$169.99*||12–100 Mbps||View Plans|
Budget-friendly low-end plans
|$59.99–$149.99†||25 Mbps||View Plans|
- Potentially fast download speeds up to 150 Mbps
- Unlimited data (for now)
- Decent price for what you get
- Lower latency than traditional satellite internet
- Steep equipment cost
- Limited availability (for now)
- Speeds and latency that are potentially worse than other internet options
Is Starlink in trouble?
Our Reviews.org YouTube internet expert, Juan, chats about the future of Starlink. Will this new satellite internet company survive, and will the high up-front costs ever go down? Check out Juan's take below.
How to sign up for the Starlink beta
The Starlink beta test is currently active, and if 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, if you decide to get the service, your $99 goes toward your equipment purchase price of $499. So this preorder seems fairly risk free.
Even so, keep in mind that your deposit doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get Starlink internet 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.
Starlink prices are pretty straightforward: pay a monthly price of $99 plus a $499 one-time fee for your equipment kit, and you’re golden. All Starlink customers get the same deal: advertised speeds of 50–150 Mbps and unlimited data.
There are no different plans to choose from, and no need to decide if paying more is worth a bump up in speed or data.
And, from what we can tell, that isn’t a promotional price either. That’s not to say that Elon Musk won’t decide to up the price later on, but it’s good to know you won’t automatically pay more after a certain amount of time.
Unlimited data is a dream come true for satellite internet users, but don’t get too excited yet. The Starlink site states that “at this time there are no data caps under the Starlink Beta program.”
So keep your eyes peeled for any changes to Starlink’s data policy in the future.
How do Starlink prices compare to Viasat and HughesNet?
Starlink satellite internet costs $99 a month for download speeds of 50–150 Mbps. To compare, a satellite internet plan from Viasat ranges from $30 to $150 a month for download speeds of 12 Mbps up to 100 Mbps, and HughesNet plans range from about $60 to $150 a month for download speeds of 25 Mbps.
But while Starlink’s monthly cost is more than reasonable, especially when compared to the top-end prices for Viasat and HughesNet, its $499 equipment cost may put it just out of reach for some.
For now, Starlink doesn’t currently offer an equipment rental option, while both Viasat and HughesNet do.
Where is the Starlink beta available?
Starlink’s beta testing program is mainly available to people living between the 33.6° and 54.9° latitudes in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and a handful of countries in Europe.1
Those latitudes cover most of the US, and we found that the majority of beta testers are located in northern states like Washington, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But there are some more southern states, like Missouri, that are also home to a few lucky people who got into the Starlink beta test.
Beta test availability data as of July 6, 2021 on Reddit
Note that this map is based on self-reporting beta testers, so the data may be skewed. But Starlink availability can only get better as the beta test continues on.
Starlink internet speed and data
Starlink advertises download speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps for its beta users, but actual speeds might be more hit or miss.
In a recent report, speed test company Ookla reported that Starlink median download speeds ranged from a low of 40 Mbps to a high of 93 Mbps during the first quarter of 2021.2
40–94 Mbps (median)
16 Mbps (average)3
31–88 ms (median)
Data effective 07/06/2021. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
That’s on top of another unfulfilled Starlink beta promise of 20 to 40 millisecond (ms) latency. The same Ookla report noted that median latency ranged from 31 to 88 ms—oftentimes much higher than alternative internet providers in the same area.2
Still, even with a median high of 88 ms, that puts Starlink’s latency far below the normal latency range of other satellite internet providers. An average latency for Viasat or HughesNet sits between 500 to 600 ms.
- Starlink latency: 31–88 ms
- Viasat and HughesNet latency: 500–600 ms
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 we’re still in beta. Starlink is still in the process of 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.4
The Starlink beta FAQ explicitly states that Starlink internet comes with no data caps “at this time.”
- Starlink beta test data cap: Unlimited
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 300 GB.
That means you need to watch your data usage like a hawk with traditional satellite internet providers—but not with Starlink. Of course, the “at this time” in the FAQ makes us 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 beta 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 $499 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 $500 mark.
- Starlink satellite dish and router cost: $499 plus shipping and handling
In a recent Q&A session, Musk noted that the dish costs more than $1,000 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.5 That could mean a price drop for Starlink customers in the future, and Musk mentioned the company would like to drop the price for $300 or $250 if possible.
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.
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’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.6
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.
60 Starlink satellites are flat-packed into a Falcon 9 nose cone.
Source: Elon Musk/Twitter
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.
Current locations of Starlink satellites in Earth’s orbit as of July 6, 2021.
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.
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.7
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.
Recap: Will Starlink satellite internet be any good?
Starlink is an up-and-coming satellite internet provider that has a lot of great potential. While it’s still dealing with beta testing quirks like an expensive set of equipment, service dropouts, and limited availability, it could become an excellent rural internet option in the future.
- Prices and plans: At $99 a month plus a $499 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 are still in question, but the beta test advertises 50–150 Mbps with the potential for improved speeds once the service goes fully live.
- Data caps: The Starlink beta test 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 $499 equipment fee is fairly 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: $99 a month, 50–150 Mbps download speeds, unlimited data
Data effective 07/06/2021. 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:
- Internet speed performance
- Customer service reports
- 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. 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.
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.
- 51% of internet users say they plan to sign up for the Starlink beta once it becomes available to them.
- While only 5% of Americans currently use a satellite internet connection, 64% of survey respondents say Starlink’s rollout 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.
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.
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.
Still have questions about SpaceX Starlink satellite internet? Let’s see if we can help.
When can we start using Starlink?
Starlink has kept quiet about which areas it will roll out beta testing to and when it will happen. So if your neighborhood doesn’t get Starlink service yet, keep your ear to the ground and check your address regularly on the official Starlink site.
Can you use Starlink anywhere?
Right now, the Starlink beta is mostly focused on the northernmost states in the US, with some exceptions. And as for countries where Starlink is offered, you’re limited to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Can Starlink be mobile?
If you’re hoping to take your Starlink internet service with you on a road trip or to your cabin, you might be disappointed. Right now, the service is limited to one address. (Though you can update your service address once you receive your equipment.)
Does weather affect Starlink?
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.
What will Starlink internet cost?
Starlink’s beta service costs $99 per month on top of a one-time $499 equipment fee. Elon Musk has stated that he hopes to bring the equipment price down in the future—maybe to a cost as low as $250.
Will Starlink be unlimited data?
Right now, Starlink beta testers get unlimited data. But the official Starlink site leaves the door open for future data caps by saying, “At this time there are no data caps under the Starlink Beta program.” So only time will tell if Starlink customers continue to get unlimited data.
Is Starlink fixed broadband?
Starlink is a self-described “low-latency broadband internet system” versus a fixed broadband system.
How fast will Starlink internet be?
The Starlink beta test promises download speeds of 50–150 Mbps, but some customers have seen speeds slower than 50 Mbps—and some even saw speeds faster than 150 Mbps.
Because the service is still in beta, it’s hard to nail down just how fast Starlink will be. But our hope is that more satellites will improve download speeds for all.
Is Starlink good for gaming?
You can technically game on satellite internet, and Starlink’s low latency makes that even more true.
Reported latency for Starlink was 31–88 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.
Is Starlink good for streaming?
The latest download speeds reported by Starlink users hit median speeds of 40–94 Mbps, which is enough to stream Netflix or Disney+ even in 4K.
Just know that any other connected devices, 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.
Will Starlink replace 5G?
We don’t believe Starlink will replace 5G, since 5G internet service will likely be an easy way to connect 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.
- Softwaresaur, Reddit, “Starlink Availability: Current and New Beta Test Locations, New Pre-orders and Conversions,” July 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- Isla McKetta, SpeedTest, “Starlink: Bridging the Digital Divide or Shooting for the Stars?,” May 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- Smoke-away, Reddit, “List of Confirmed Starlink Speed Tests,” November 2020. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- DishyMcFlatFace, Reddit, “We Are the Starlink Team, Ask Us Anything!.” November 2020. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, “Starlink’s ‘Next-Generation’ User Terminal Will Cost a Lot Less, Musk Says,” June 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, “Starlink Dishes Go Into ‘Thermal Shutdown’ Once They Hit 122° Fahrenheit,” June 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.
- John R. Quain, Tom’s Guide, “Starlink Review (Hands On): How Good Is Elon Musk’s Satellite Internet Service?,” April 2021. Accessed July 6, 2021.