SpaceX Engineers Answer Your Burning Starlink Satellite Internet Questions In Reddit AMA
High-speed internet connectivity is not quite as ubiquitous as it should be, particularly in rural areas where there just are not any options (or not any good options, anyway). Elon Musk and his merry band of SpaceX engineers are hoping to change that with Starlink, a promising satellite internet service. Wondering how things are going? SpaceX's engineers have some answers.
SpaceX has launched hundreds of satellites into the heavens already, with early tests showing speeds of 134Mbps down and 15Mbps up. Those are not on par with the fastest fiber speeds, obviously, but are still fast, especially for areas where the alternative is dial-up. SpaceX has also been expanding its tests, having recently opened up thousands of additional slots for beta testers.
There is a lot of interest over what SpaceX is doing with Starlink, and so the engineers responsible for the high-speed magic dropped by Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session.
One of the burning questions is in regards to data caps. Comcast has been receiving criticism for sneakily adding 1.2TB data caps for millions of Northeastern US customers. Will Starlink impose them, and if so, what will they be? The good news is, for the time being there are no data caps the Starlink beta service. SpaceX would like to keep it that way, but stopped short of definitively saying they will never happen.
"So we really don't want to implement restrictive data caps like people have encountered with satellite internet in the past. Right now we're still trying to figure a lot of stuff out—we might have to do something in the future to prevent abuse and just ensure that everyone else gets quality service," a SpaceX engineer said.
Another concern is latency, with speeds being beamed from space. However, SpaceX is confident that this will not be a problem, because of space lasers. That's right, space lasers!
"The speed of light is faster in vacuum than in fiber, so the space lasers have exciting potential for low latency links. They will also allow us to serve users where the satellites can't see a terrestrial gateway antenna—for example, over the ocean and in regions badly connected by fiber," SpaceX said.
A SpaceX engineer also said the team had an "exciting flight test earlier this year" using prototype space lasers on two Starlink satellites. They were able to transmit gigabytes of data. The challenge, however, is bringing down the cost of space lasers, as well as producing a lot them and doing it quickly.
Another interesting tidbit came in regards to a question about mobility. A user asked if they would be able to bring their service with them to a summer cabin.
"Mobility options—including moving your Starlink to different service addresses (or places that don't even have addresses!)—is coming once we are able to increase our coverage by launching more satellites and rolling out new hardware and software," a SpaceX engineer said.
Overall, it sounds like things are progressing nicely. That's good news for anyone who lives far removed from good internet service.