SpaceX Reveals Starlink's Beta Service Results to the FCC

SpaceX Reveals Starlink’s Beta Service Results to the FCC

SpaceX disclosed its latest speed updates about its Starlink beta service in a letter to the FCC on September 4.

Beta tests have resulted in download speeds of over 100 Mbps (over 12.5 MB/s) and upload speeds of approximately 40 Mbps (around 5 MB/s). The beta service also resulted in a one-way latency time of under 20 milliseconds. This means that the round trip latency time varies between 40 and 50 milliseconds.  

The testing platform used to verify Starlink’s beta speeds was Speedtest by Ookla. It is a free online service that assesses a user’s internet connection speed in real-time. 

In its letter to the FCC, SpaceX published screenshots taken by Starlink beta testers. These screenshots showed that the constellation was being assessed from users located in Seattle, Washington, 15 miles away from Starlink’s HQ in Redmond.

What do the Latest Beta Results Indicate?

Those latest results are only preliminary ones. However, they are already in line with the average of video gaming broadband latency, that ranges between 20 and 100 milliseconds. 

They are also inline with download speeds offered by U.S.-based broadband companies. 

SpaceX’s Director of Satellite Policy, David Goldman, stated the following: “As it works through these beta tests, SpaceX continues to add features to unlock the full capability of the satellites and user equipment.”

SpaceX also revealed that successful tests have been conducted for Starlink satellites’ “space lasers” in orbit. Those lasers are a form of light-based communication with extremely high bandwidths. They enable wireless, high-speed transfer of huge quantities of data over great distances. 

As a result, this is what is enabling huge improvements over both download and upload speeds. 

Last August, beta users of Starlink were getting download speeds ranging from 11 Mbps (1.375 MB/s)  to 60 Mbps (7.5 MB/s). The same speed tests  showed upload speeds ranging from 5 Mbps (0.625 MB/s) to 18 Mbps (2.25 MB/s). The same tests showed latencies ranging from 31 milliseconds to 94 milliseconds.

SpaceX’s latest results have displayed significant improvements and a better performance overall.

What’s Next?

SpaceX’s objective is to reach a download speed of 1 Gbps and 8 milliseconds in latency.

SpaceX is also vying to qualify for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction. It is a federal program funded by the FCC that will award $20.4 billion to companies that will deploy a reliable broadband internet service for rural and remote areas.

Qualifying for the program will grant SpaceX considerable financial resources in terms of building and deploying its constellation.

In order to qualify, SpaceX must indeed provide a broadband speed of up to 1Gbps. The company must also prove that Starlink’s latency should be under 100 milliseconds. 

Conclusion

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service is improving at a rapid pace. It has also achieved its initial objective of bringing its latency service below 100 milliseconds. While the download speeds are still well below the 1Gbps mark, this is understandable. 

SpaceX has only conducted 12 Starlink missions so far and has deployed less than 10% of its constellation. Achieving download speeds of 1Gbps is not a far-fetched objective.

Elon Musk continues to prove skeptics wrong. At the 2020 Satellite conference, Musk claimed that SpaceX will target latency rates below 20 milliseconds. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai doubted Musk’s latency claims. In May 2020, Pai even proposed to classify SpaceX as a high-latency provider, i.e. above 100 milliseconds. 

Even though Pai backtracked and the FCC backed off that plan, serious doubts were expressed about SpaceX’s internet performance. 

SpaceX has now achieved that objective, and now is aiming to consistently deploy its Starlink constellation to reach the 1Gbps threshold. 

Form the looks of it, it is well on its way to do so.

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