Starlink vs Viasat vs HughsNet: Satellite Internet Compared

Satellite internet is often the only option in mountainous, rural and other sparsely populated areas. Traditionally, satellite Internet solutions are more expensive than fixed lines and mobile Internet. At the same time, it stands out with a high latency connection, which makes it a poor choice for online gamers.

All of that is changing as Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite network is regularly deployed in orbit around the planet. Find out what it brings compared to traditional satellite service providers – Viasat and HughesNet.

What makes Starlink different from traditional satellite providers?

When it comes to deploying communications devices in Earth orbit, there are many obstacles to overcome. The higher the cost as the only way to get there is via rockets. However, as part of SpaceX, Starlink has significantly alleviated this problem by deploying its satellites with reusable rockets – Falcon 9. You may have seen videos of them as they deployed their cargo in space, then landed on the surface of the Earth.

Falcon 9 by SpaceX

Image Credit: SpaceX

So far, Falcon 9 rockets have been launched over 125 times, having flown 67 times. Once it became cheaper to deploy satellites via reusable rockets, the next hurdle was coverage and latency.

Traditional satellite networks, such as HughesNet or Viasat, position their satellites about 35,400 km above the surface in a stationary geosynchronous orbit. Due to the large distance, the signal takes a long time to bounce off the surface resulting in high latency, on average 500-800ms.

However, satellites in high orbit provide much greater coverage. For example, HughesNet Jupiter 2 satellite offers coverage of the entire United States, from coast to coast.

Starlink takes a different approach, solving the latency problem by instead deploying its satellites in low orbit, just 500 km away. Because they are in such a low orbit, many more will need to be deployed to provide the same coverage. The number of satellites will peak at 12,000, with 8,000 in the first stage of deployment in a 500 km orbit and the remaining 4,000 in a 1,200 km orbit.

Related: How To Watch SpaceX Launches Live

The key to Starlink’s low latency is inter-satellite communication via light-based data transmission in the form of lasers. Starlink uses Ku-band and Ka-band microwave frequency ranges to transmit the signal to Earth, 12-18 GHz and 16.5-40 GHz, respectively. Both are needed to penetrate various densities of atmospheric water vapor (clouds).

Starlink vs. HughesNet vs. Viasat: Speed ​​Test

When the Starlink network is fully terminated, the speed indicated should be a maximum of 10 Gbps, which is comparable to Google Fiber. However, with just over 1,700 satellites launched, Starlink’s internet speed reaches 150 Mbps for download (DL) and up to 15 Mbps for download (UL).

According to the Ookla aggregator speed test between Starlink, HughesNet and Viasat, the median performance of the three satellite services is as follows.

Performance comparison

Data source: Ookla

As you can see, Starlink’s approach to deploying many LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites has been massively awarded for better user experience. All the good numbers are high – upload and download speed – while the bad number – latency – is exceptionally low, comparable to high quality 4G mobile internet.

Note that for watching FullHD movies (at 1920×1080 resolution), the recommended internet speed is 20 Mbps. If you are having trouble watching video streaming platforms due to constant buffering, these video streaming service tips will help you fix the problem.

With Starlink’s more than adequate DL speed, you should have no problem watching even 4K streams. In other parts of the world, such as Canada, South America and Europe, performance remains roughly the same in all three categories. However, it appears that Europe has, on average, higher Starlink DL and UL speeds, between 10-23%.

Are Starlink’s cost and coverage competitive?

Obviously, Starlink’s new approach to satellite deployment and technology also brings new performance, leaving old technology behind in the dust. So whether you want low latency for gaming or daily Zoom meetings, for the first time in satellite history, Starlink can make it happen. The question then is, what is the price and are you eligible to receive Starlink based on your location?

Hughesnet and Viasat both have four levels of data caps, and they both offer full coverage across the United States. Basically, their pricing plans are as follows.

Price comparison

Currently, Starlink has around 90,000 active users, with around half a million on the waiting list, for whom you can apply here. As for coverage, Elon Musk has a target date to exit beta at the end of 2021.

As for Starlink’s area coverage, that changes every month, so you might want to visit it regularly. updated globe map. With a few exceptions, in South America, Australia, and New Zealand, most of the coverage consists of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, between 44 and 53 degrees latitude. You can check the layout of Starlink satellites using the live satellite tracker.

live starlink satellite map

Finally, in addition to the initial hardware of $ 499, you should also expect shipping and handling costs of around $ 50. Interestingly, the Starlink terminal won’t be portable yet, but there are plans to make it fully mobile in the near future.

If you’re not in the cover, bookmark the above websites and keep checking. SpaceX Starlink is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Starlink — Internet of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Due to the problem of high latency, satellite internet has become a necessity in underdeveloped regions. SpaceX Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites make it equivalent to 4G mobile internet, but that’s just the start. If all goes as planned, Google Fiber’s service level will become accessible in most parts of the world.

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