Starlink Expansion

Several bits of news about SpaceX’s Starlink came out yesterday.

#1 Pre-orders are open

Starlink started accepting pre-orders in a whole bunch of countries. If you’re living in an eligible area, you can enter your address on Starlink’s website and get a rough estimate for when Starlink service will be available to you. A pre-order can be placed by putting down about $100

#2 More beta invites

It looks like Starlink may have sent out a record number of invitations to the beta program yesterday. And I got one!

I paid about $500 for the satellite dish and router plus about $100 more for shipping and taxes. Starlink is suggesting shipping may take 2-4 weeks right now since the company is dealing with a heavy volume of orders.

In an email I received, Starlink doubled down on some performance claims (emphasis mine):

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.

As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.

I’m excited to get started testing Starlink, and I’ll try to share details about my experience as soon as possible.

#3 Starlink tweets

SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, recently shared a few noteworthy tweets about Starlink. One vague tweet touched on a potential Starlink IPO:

Another tweet included some sober details about the difficulties of running a satellite internet business:

Finally, I thought this exchange was great:

More Starlink Speed Tests

Last month, speed tests from beta testers of SpaceX’s Starlink leaked. This month, a few tests conducted by StarLink itself were shared in a public FCC filing. The results are outstanding:

Test 1

  • Ping: 19ms
  • Download speed: 103Mbps
  • Upload speed: 42Mbps

Test 2

  • Ping: 18ms
  • Download speed: 103Mbps
  • Upload speed: 41Mbps


SpaceX almost certainly cherry-picked the tests to put Starlink in a good light, but the results are still impressive. I wasn’t convinced Starlink would ever deliver on Elon Musk’s claims about sub-20ms latency. Hell, Ajit Pai, the FCC’s chairman, was skeptical Starlink would deliver sub-120ms latency.

The test results come from screenshots in a presentation slide. I don’t know much about the methodology behind the tests, but it looks like they came from Ookla’s

Along with the test screenshots, the slide includes some text. Here are a few of the bullets:

  • High-speed, low latency broadband to any location on earth
    • Tested at over 100 Mbps using standard user equipment
    • Latency <40-50ms round trip to the internet

I’m not sure if SpaceX was meaning to imply that the screenshots shared in the slide came from tests using standard equipment. While the screenshots do show speeds over 100Mbps, the latency results are lower than 40Mbps (possibly a lot lower if the tests are measuring round-trip as I expect).1

Here’s the graphical portion of the slide:

Graphical portion of slide showing speed test results

At first glance, I thought two separate tests gave nearly identical results. Zooming in, we can see both tests have the same ID.

Screenshot showing two tests with identical ID numbers

I expect it was an honest mistake on SpaceX’s end, but it’s strange.