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Introducing SpaceX's Starlink: Internet Access from Space

For many consumers, it's hard to remember a time without high-speed internet. In some cases, younger generations have never known anything other than cable or DSL speeds. While modern internet speeds are light years beyond the transfer rates of just a few years ago, most of them pale in comparison to that of satellite-based internet beamed directly from space.

A Brief Primer on Internet Speeds

To understand just how fast Elon Musk's Starlink is, it's important to understand some basic terminology. Broadband internet speeds are generally measured in megabits per second, or Mbps. Some service providers advertise extremely high speeds – like 2,000 Mbps – but in reality, hardware limitations tend to cap speeds around 150 Mbps in the best case scenario.

But Mbps is the only thing that affects your total speed. Another important factor, latency, measures the amount of time it takes for your computer to receive a signal from your service provider. In the case of Google Fiber, which is currently listed as the fasted broadband speeds in the U.S., the average latency is 28.1 milliseconds, or ms. The provider with the second-highest speeds, Verizon DSL, clocks in around 13.8 ms.

In comparison, Starlink promises to deliver speeds of up to 300 Mbps anywhere in the world. This is in stark contrast to Google Fiber or even modern DSL and cable services, which tend to focus availability in larger, more populated areas. This often leaves rural areas without access to high-speed internet, but this is one problem that Elon Musk expects to solve with Starlink.

Starlink customers are currently struggling with latency, however, with current latency rates fluctuating between 30 and 40 ms. Nonetheless, service is expected to improve in the coming weeks, months and years. It is, after all, still in its initial beta phase.

What is Starlink?

You should already have a good understanding of Starlink by now. Backed by Elon Musk, it's a brand new form of broadband internet that is beamed directly from space. Satellite internet has been tried in the past, but not to this scale, scope or speed.

If that wasn't enough, the team at Starlink recently launched 120 new satellites into orbit. Not only are these new satellites joining a fleet that now numbers nearly 1,000, but it officially means that Elon Musk owns nearly one-third of all the satellites that are currently orbiting Earth.

But this ultimately promises to bolster Starlink's services even further. Although it's not clear when the Starlink program will be transitioned out of its initial beta phase, its limited customer base is already highly active across the internet. They've been eager to post their feedback on social media and message boards of all types, and most of it has been positive.

It's also unclear if Starlink can even succeed from a financial standpoint. Even Musk has admitted that he's looking at a period of one to two years of negative cash flow before he can even hope to make a profit.
For more information on Starlink, please visit their official website at {{|}}.


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