Starlink broadband speeds slow as subscriber numbers grow

But a median of 60Mbps is not to be sniffed at when you're out in the sticks

Elon Musk's Starlink satellite broadband service has seen a decline in download speeds around the world as more and more subscribers sign up, perhaps making the company a victim of its own success.

The data comes in a report by network Intelligence company Ookla, which states it has monitored the performance of satellite internet services for some time, and Starlink's satellite internet for over a year now.

According to the company, the speed of the Starlink service has decreased in every country it has surveyed over the past year, with median download speeds falling by between 9 and 54 percent in the period from Q2 2021 to Q2 2022 across the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand.

Upload speeds have also slowed in each of these countries, but network latency – although high compared with fixed broadband – remained relatively unchanged except for New Zealand, where latency dropped by 23ms, according to Ookla. (We're not sure whether Ookla means that latency has improved or worsened by 23ms when it says "dropped.")

Some decline in service is perhaps expected with increasing subscriber numbers, and SpaceX's VP of Commercial Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, reportedly told the audience at a recent event that the Starlink service now has 700,000 subscribers. This figure is up from the 400,000 reported in May, and just 145,000 at the start of the year.

However, the research points out that Starlink still achieved a median download speed of at least 60Mbps in North America during Q2 2022, which is not to be sniffed at for many subscribers in rural areas that may have few other choices for high-speed internet access.

In Europe, Starlink's service also outperformed the median download speeds achieved by fixed broadband services in 16 countries during Q2 2022, and even reached download speeds of over 100Mbps in 10 countries. In contrast, fixed broadband services were only able to achieve median download speeds of over 100Mbps in six countries during Q2 2022, these being Romania, Spain, Portugal, France, Hungary, and the Netherlands, according to Ookla.

Overall, Starlink appears to come out well from the report, which shows that while speeds may have dropped as more customers signed up, it still manages to outperform fixed broadband in many regions, and was also the fastest satellite provider in several regions.

Starlink suffered a blow in August when the FCC in the US declined to authorize a billion dollars for the service from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, saying that while its technology showed promise, it would not be proper to subsidize "a still developing technology" using public funds.

SpaceX also plans to use Starlink to deliver a 5G cellphone service in partnership with T-Mobile US in the near future, although this will require the company to deploy larger v2 satellites to enable this, and it currently lacks the authorization to do so, as our earlier report noted. ®

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