Abstract image representing the internet

Fixed Wireless Availability – Accuracy Issues

Earlier today, I tried to order Verizon’s 5G Home Internet. According to Verizon’s website, my address was eligible for service.

A few minutes after placing my order, I received an email explaining that my order couldn’t be completed. Here’s an excerpt:

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for choosing Verizon. We were unable to complete the order you recently submitted.

We are sorry, but after further review, it was determined that we are unable to provide home internet service at your address at this time. Prior to qualifying service for any specific location, Verizon evaluates a number of factors to ensure we can provide new and existing customers the best possible experience.

The availability of home internet products may change in the future so we encourage you to stay updated on your eligibility status by visiting https://www.verizon.com/5g/home/ . You can click the “check availability” button and sign up for alerts to stay in the know on when eligibility in your area may change.

According to the FCC’s Broadband Map, my address is eligible. According to the initial screening system on Verizon’s website, my address is eligible. Yet Verizon has some secondary system that quickly and automatically rejected my address. I’m unsure why these different systems are out of sync.

The bit about staying updated on eligibility via verizon.com/5g/home/ isn’t helpful. The info on that page was wrong. That’s why I got far enough to get my rejection email.

Fixed Wireless Availability Conundrums

With fixed wireless services like Verizon 5G Home, network congestion needs to be carefully managed. Perhaps Verizon is regularly tweaking the availability of 5G Home Internet based on how much spare capacity the network has in different areas. While tweaking of that sort wouldn’t explain why one of Verizon’s systems clears my address while another rejects the address, it could explain the mismatch with the FCC’s data.

With the FCC only collecting availability data twice per year, recent changes in availability may not be captured. I’m not sure that explains my experience, but it’s a meaningful limitation of the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection, regardless.

It may be rare for a cable internet provider to suddenly decide a region is oversubscribed and reject new subscribers. However, that kind of behavior will be more common for internet providers using technologies that aren’t resilient in the face of congestion (e.g., fixed wireless and satellite). With fixed wireless and satellite internet gaining market share, this problem will become more relevant.

Xfinity’s Flailing Attack On T-Mobile Home Internet

Recently, I’ve been hearing a radio ad for Xfinity that attacks T-Mobile Home Internet. The ad’s message is roughly: “T-Mobile Home Internet is lousy. Pick Xfinity instead!”

The ad encourages listeners to visit xfinity.com/tmofacts. On that page, Xfinity’s supposed advantages are split into three categories: speed, reliability, and entertainment. Let’s go through them one by one.


Xfinity claims, “T-Mobile is 10-36x slower than Xfinity.”

I have no idea where those numbers come from. Ookla’s last report put Xfinity’s median download speed at 226Mbps. Speeds 10x to 36x slower would be 6 to 26Mbps.

I couldn’t find Ookla speeds specifically capturing T-Mobile’s home internet products, but Ookla’s last report gives numbers for mobile networks more broadly. On modern chipsets, T-Mobile had a median download speed of 151Mbps. Looking only at 5G connections, T-Mobile had a median download speed of 217Mbps.

Next in the speed section, we get this bit:
Text that reads as follows:  Storms, mountains, cars — being inside — can slow down your speed  T-Mobile says: 'Weather, the surrounding terrain, use inside a building or moving vehicle' all affect speed and performance.
I’m not sure what Xfinity is getting at with the point about cars. I tend to use my home internet at home.


Xfinity draws attention to how T-Mobile prioritizes subscribers on mobile phones over home internet subscribers.

Customers may notice reduced speeds in comparison to customers with a higher priority during network congestion.

It’s a fair point.


On the anti-T-Mobile side, we find this:
Text that reads: Watch TV on T-Mobile's terms
Use Hulu Live and Sling Live TV? Not anymore
T-Mobile says: "Not compatible with some live TV streaming services" including "Hulu Live and Sling Live TV".

Do you use Hulu Live or Sling Live? Me neither.

On the pro-Xfinity side, there’s a pitch for Xfinity’s Flex TV box:
Text that reads: Entertainment: Stream all your favorites with Xfinity
We'll even give you a free 4K streaming TV box

Xfinity used to offer subscribers a free Flex TV box. It’s $5 per month now. The page needs an update.


Props to T-Mobile. Xfinity feels threatened.

Traffic jam

Starlink Introducing Capacity-Based Pricing

Starlink just announced it will adjust pricing for residential customers. Service will become cheaper in areas the company has extra capacity, and service will become more expensive in capacity-constrained areas.

Here’s the key bit from the email I got last night:

The Starlink monthly service for residential customers is changing as follows:

  • $10 increase in areas with limited capacity. New price will be $120/month.
  • $20 decrease in areas with excess capacity. New price will be $90/month.

As a current customer in an area with limited capacity, your monthly service price will increase to $120/month beginning April 24, 2023. For new customers in your area, the price increase is effective immediately.

While it’s not great to see my bill increasing, I’m glad to see efforts to tie pricing to capacity in different regions.

Whether we’re looking at cell service or residential internet, the level of network congestion in an area can significantly affect the quality of service customers experience.1 In a somewhat convoluted way, congestion also affects the cost of delivering service.

I find it surprising that services tend to be priced as uniformly as they are throughout the country. Moving away from that uniformity probably makes the market more efficient.

Earth from space

Starlink Announces Fair Use Policy

Starlink just announced that it will implement a Fair Use Policy for residential customers in the US and Canada sometime in December. Here’s the key bit from an email Starlink sent me:

Under the Fair Use policy, all Residential customers will receive unlimited data, and will start each month with Priority Access, which means their data usage will be prioritized during times of network congestion.

Customers who exceed 1 TB of data use on a monthly basis (currently < 10% of users) will automatically be switched to Basic Access for the remainder of the billing cycle, which means their data usage will be deprioritized during times of network congestion, resulting in slower speeds. Data used between 11pm - 7am will not count towards your Priority Access.

I figured a policy like this had to be coming for Starlink’s unlimited plans. It strikes me as a good approach. 1TB is a reasonable allotment, and heavy users still get good speeds when there’s no congestion. The exemption for data use during the lowest-traffic time of day is particularly clever. Folks with a one-off need to download a big piece of software (e.g., an AAA video game) can plan to do that at off-peak hours and avoid burning through a bunch of prioritized data.

Earth from space

Starlink Premium Announced

Starlink just announced Starlink Premium. The new service will deliver faster speeds and use a different dish than the standard Starlink service. Starlink says the premium service may deliver download speeds between 150 and 500Mbps (roughly double the typical speeds with Starlink’s conventional service). Improvements in latency are not expected.

While the standard Starlink service requires a $500 upfront payment for a dish and $100 per month for service, the new dish costs $2500 and service costs $500 per month. Starlink Premium is available for pre-order now with a $500 deposit.

Timelines & Multiple-Dish Accounts

Here’s what Starlink says on its main webpage about Starlink Premium:

Starlink Premium has more than double the antenna capability of Starlink, delivering faster internet speeds and higher throughput for the highest demand users, including businesses. Order now to reserve, deliveries start in Q2 2022.

There’s a long waitlist for Starlink’s conventional service. The opportunity to skip that waitlist may be a big selling point for potential Premium subscribers.

In an FAQ entry, Starlink mentions that the subscribers with the Premium service may manage several Starlinks from a centralized account:

Starlink Premium delivers the same low latency with higher throughput allocation to serve small offices of 10-20 users, storefronts, and residential locations across the globe. Order as many Starlinks as needed, manage all of your service locations from a single account, and access 24/7 priority customer support.
Abstract related to the idea of data

xFi Complete, Unlimited Data, And Wacky Pricing

Many internet service providers try to rent customers combination modem/routers for $10-$20 per month. I generally advise people who are slightly tech-savvy to save money by buying their own modems and routers. There’s an exception to my advice that applies to Xfinity Internet customers.

On many Xfinity plans, there’s a 1.2TB per month cap on data use.1 The options an Xfinity customer has for removing the cap depend on whether a customer is renting an xFi modem. Customers that don’t rent a modem have to pay an extra $30 per month for unlimited data. Customers that already rent an xFi modem for $14 per month can pay an extra $11 ($25 per month) for xFi Complete. With xFi Complete, customers get unlimited data by default.

Here’s a table from Xfinity’s page on Xfi Complete that describes various options:

Table showing attributes of plans with xFi Complete, xFi standard, and self-purchased equipment

While the large majority of Xfinity customers won’t exceed 1.2TB of data use, tech-savvy customers that own their own equipment likely use more data than the average customer. Oddly enough, renting a modem with xFi Complete is cheaper than buying your own equipment and upgrading to unlimited data.2

Starlink Aiming For Global Coverage By September

Gwynne Shotwel, SpaceX’s president and COO was recently quoted by Reuters:

We’ve successfully deployed 1,800 or so satellites and once all those satellites reach their operational orbit, we will have continuous global coverage, so that should be like September timeframe.”

Shotwel’s comments were made during a conversation with Macquarie Group, an investment banking company.

While Starlink may have global coverage before the end of 2021, I expect it will take longer for Starlink to offer service in the majority of countries. The company has plenty of logistical and regulatory hurdles to deal with.

Earth and space

Upcoming Starlink Update

Yesterday, Starlink shared an update email with subscribers in the company’s beta program. The email mentioned several recent improvements to Starlink’s product. An upcoming, major update was also mentioned:

Today, your Starlink speaks to a single satellite assigned to your terminal for a particular period of time. In the future, if communication with your assigned satellite is interrupted for any reason, your Starlink will seamlessly switch to a different satellite, resulting in far fewer network disruptions.

It sounds like the new feature may be rolled out gradually with most users getting the update sometime this month:

This feature will be available to most beta users in April and is expected to deliver one of our most notable reliability improvements to date.
Stary Sky

Starlink First Impressions

I joined Starlink’s beta and recently got the service up and running. While I’ll write a detailed review eventually, I thought I’d share my first impressions now.

Like others in the beta, I paid about $500 for my satellite dish (Dishy as Starlink calls it) and router. Taxes and shipping added about $100 more.

The Dishy, a basic mount, a router, and cords all showed up in one giant box:

Starlink starter kit box

Setup was incredibly easy. Here’s how simple Starlink’s instructions were:

Starlink setup instructions

Most of the cords were already plugged-in where they belonged. Within about 15 minutes of opening the box, I connected a computer over Wi-Fi and ran a test finding a download speed of about 35Mbps. I ran about a dozen tests in total, and I think that first test found the lowest speed of them all. Here are the results from the first test I ran over a wired connection:

Test result showing 30ms ping and 78.5 Mbps download speed

Starlink suggested I should expect download speeds between 50Mbps and 150Mbps during the beta. Nearly all of my tests showed speeds in that range, but typically in the lower end of the range (50-100Mbps).

While people often focus on speeds, I think speed is an overrated performance metric. Once a connection exceeds something like 20Mbps, further speed increases have vastly diminishing returns.1

Latency is where Starlink shines. My tests consistently showed latency below 50ms. That’s roughly on-par with the typical latency for cable or DSL connections. It’s also about an order of magnitude lower than the usual latency for satellite internet.

I continue to be excited to see where things go with Starlink. I’ll share more as I continue to trial the service.

Miscellaneous notes

  • After setting up my service, I decided to grab the Starlink app in case I missed anything important. The app worked fine, but I didn’t learn anything new from it.
  • Starlink’s communication style is refreshingly informal. It’s the opposite of the corporate-bullshit speak that’s typical from ISPs. E.g., the Starlink beta was named “The Better Than Nothing Beta.” I’d love to see Starlink keep up the current vibe as the service matures.
  • The router has one available Ethernet port (separate from the port used to connect to Dishy).
  • The router’s design is unique (Cybertruck-esque).
Speed abstract

Will Starlink Double Speeds This Year?

When I got invited to Starlink’s beta, the company included this message in my invitation email:

During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.

Yesterday, a Starlink user tweeted a screenshot showing a download speed of 130Mbps and a latency of 44ms. Here’s the reply Elon Musk left:

It’s an audacious goal. While some tests with Starlink have already shown sub-20ms latency, that kind of performance is far from typical. Getting speeds to 300Mbps this year would be a real accomplishment.

In the last several months, Musk has made a handful of bold predictions. He has claimed humans will probably land on Mars in the next 6 years and that Tesla will be capable of Level 5 autonomous driving by the end of 2021. While I don’t think either of those predictions will come to fruition, I find Musk’s speculation about Starlink’s performance more plausible. I think there’s about a 50% chance the prediction will look basically correct a year from now.