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Since the Starlink broadband Internet is becoming more of a reality every day,  I thought I'd create a central thread for Starlink info.

First, a comprehensive Reddit site and Starlink Constellation Visualization.

Second, info from the Starlink Reddit Wiki . . .

What are the milestones that need to happen before I can sign up?

  • Software must be written to handle communications between the user and the satellite, a satellite and another satellite, controls to maintain a constellation of 12,000 satellites in orbit in real time, collision detection and control, de-orbit operations, security, and everything else

  • Hardware needs to be finalized including the antenna, satellite and payload adapter/deployment

  • Factory needs to be setup to mass produce the satellites, think Tesla model 3 production problems

  • SpaceX needs to launch at least 360 satellites (6 launches not counting May 2019 demo launch) into orbit to start offering service in latitudes around 53º (the Northern US, Southern Canada, etc)

  • 12 launches are needed to provide service across the contiguous US and other countries in similar north and south latitudes

  • 24 launches are needed to cover all Earth population that lives between 57º south and north latitudes

  • 5-8 more launches are needed to cover latitudes greater than 57º

The above timeline is based on the approved orbital parameters and public information as of August 2019. If the proposed modification is approved Starlink can provide the contiguous US coverage after 8 launches and global coverage after 24.

Will there be service in my country/city/province/region/territory/zone/dimension/area?

The satellites will cover the entire world. However actually getting access will require an agreement with your countries government. Some governments are not keen on the idea of their people accessing unfiltered internet (think China) others don't care.

SpaceX is focused to offer service in the United States and Canada first. In countries where SpaceX can, they are likely to sell directly to consumers, according to SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell.

Outside the United States, SpaceX is working nation by nation to get authorization to offer the service. “Every country has its own process,” said Shotwell.

What are some of the geopolitical issues Starlink will need to deal with?

Some countries want tight controls over the Internet. In theory all you need to get unfiltered access anywhere in the world is an antenna and an account. SpaceX plans to work with governments on a case by case basis to provide service.

Elon on the issue: "From our standpoint we could conceivably continue to broadcast and they'd have a choice of either shooting our satellites down.. or not. China can do that. So we probably shouldn't broadcast there. If they get upset with us, they can blow our satellites up. I mean, I'm hopeful that we can structure agreements with various countries to allow communication with their citizens but it is on a country by country basis. I don't think it's something that would affect the time line. At least, it's not going to take longer than five years to do that. Not all countries will agree at first. There will always be some countries that don't agree. That's fine."

Can I replace my cell phone?

No. It is not meant to replace your cell phone service because of the antenna required.

What kind of antenna does it use?

It will use a flat phased array antenna about the size of a medium pizza box according to Elon (0.48 m or 19 inches in diameter according to SpaceX's filing). Described by Elon as the most advanced phased array antenna in the world, including military. You will needs line of sight to the open sky, mounted on your roof or anywhere outside. The antenna handles both upload and downloads and is capable of gigabit speeds.

What the heck is a phased array antenna?

Think of it like a bunch of small antennas working together so they can point the signal in a specific direction. This would allow the signal to track the satellite as it passes overhead and then switch to the next one when the first is out of range.

Can I mount one on my car for internet access on the road?

Yes, you should be able to mount the antenna on a car, RV, boat, plane, train, or any other vehicle as long as it is pointed to the open sky. It would not work in your garage, a covered parking lot or in a tunnel.

What kind of speeds can be expected for the average user?

Unknown. Nothing has been announced at this early stage. SpaceX demonstrated 610 Mbps provided in flight to the cockpit of a military aircraft. SpaceX mentioned gigabit speeds in very early design stages.

What kind of latency is expected? Isn't satellite Internet latency very high?

Elon: "Aiming for sub 20ms latency initially, sub 10ms over time, with much greater consistency than terrestrial links, as only ever a few hops to major data centers."

The existing satellite Internet service is provided by geostationary satellites orbiting at 35,786 km (22,236 miles). At such a high altitude signal propagates at least for 477 ms through space (if user is at the equator, longer at higher latitudes). First Starlink satellites will be orbiting much lower at 550 km (342 miles) making significantly lower latency possible.

Finally, some observations . . .

To me Starlink is the original HughesNet on steroids. That is, it looks like Starlink will use Ku-band frequencies (just like the original HughesNet) to communicate between satellite and user terminal. However, that's pretty much where the similarity ends as Starlink will have very short latencies, incredible speeds, and, hopefully, push button terminal-to-satellite connection.

On the other hand, you will need a clear LOS (Line Of Sight) from your terminal to the satellites. So if you're camped in the woods, it ain't gonna work. You may want to hang onto a cell data plan for those times.

 

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One more thing from the Reddit Wiki . . .

In June 2019 Elon said the value of Starlink is to provide low-latency, high-bandwidth internet access to the sparse and moderately sparse and relatively low density areas. Rural and semi-rural places that don't have any or any adequate internet access are optimal and will target 3% - 5% of people in the world. It is not well suited for high density cities.

Now ain't that a switch . . . imagine having better Internet service in your RV than in the city.

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As far as the launch count goes, keep in mind that Ms Shotwell has said the new Starship currently in development will be capable of launching about 400 Starlink sats per launch. That will obviously speed up deployment by a significant factor. Starlink may not be as far off as some would have us believe...

For countries that don't want uncontrolled Internet access, I wonder if simply banning the import and use of individual terminals would be sufficient, rather than requiring the ability to disable the sats while passing over their territory. There are numerous space related treaties in place with many countries, but I don't know what they include of course. I don't know if it's even possible, but limiting a country's access to the US owned and operated GPS system would be a powerful negotiating tool if needed.

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Update . . .

SpaceX needs to launch at least 360 satellites (6 launches not counting May 2019 demo launch) into orbit to start offering service in latitudes around 53º (the Northern US, Southern Canada, etc) -- from the SpaceX Wiki.

Starlink launch #2 - slated for 12/31/2019

Starlink launch #3 - slated for January

1/2 way there by January

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The only comments from Starlink/SpaceX I've seen about pricing are that it will be competitive with existing services.

Edited by Dutch_12078
typo

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3 hours ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Thanks for the update, Tom! I'm keeping a spot clear on my roof for the "pizza box"... ;)

We should start a pool of when we think Starlink will be available for RVers (ie, consumers). I'm thinking 2021. How about you?

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15 minutes ago, Zulu said:

We should start a pool of when we think Starlink will be available for RVers (ie, consumers). I'm thinking 2021. How about you?

I'll go with 3rd quarter of 2020 for limited availability in northern US and Canada. That's dependent on the consumer terminals being available though. Nationwide, I'm with you on sometime in 2021...

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Yep, the launch count is 240, although a handful have failed either unintended or intended for testing. I don't know what the actual working count is now, but they should be covering all of North America by the end of the year.

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These early versions of the Starlink sats depend on ground stations for inter-sat communications instead of the laser links that will be used later on to build a mesh network in orbit. That means the early implementation won't have the shorter latency that the laser links will bring to the game. The laser linked sats will also require fewer ground stations with less critical placement. From a potential user viewpoint, I think the two big questions we still have is the cost of the service and the cost/availability of the user terminals. Will there be a contract subscription service that includes the hardware? And/or a hardware purchase option with month to month service? The sat TV and Internet services offer working models of both options of course... 

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1 hour ago, Dutch_12078 said:

I think the two big questions we still have is the cost of the service and the cost/availability of the user terminals. Will there be a contract subscription service that includes the hardware? And/or a hardware purchase option with month to month service? The sat TV and Internet services offer working models of both options of course... 

I'll add a third big question.  How many of us will still be alive when the service goes mainstream?

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2 hours ago, Dutch_12078 said:

These early versions of the Starlink sats depend on ground stations for inter-sat communications instead of the laser links that will be used later on to build a mesh network in orbit. That means the early implementation won't have the shorter latency that the laser links will bring to the game.

Even without laser links, it could still be faster than conventional fiber -- using ground relays with Starlink

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Starlink will be in operation this year. The Southern US and a lot of the world by next year. So unless you have a terminal diagnosis or are teetering, you should be here. Barring accidents I'll see it become the data provider for my new Tesla two motor AWD model 3, also from Elon Musk, as are Starlink, Space X, and a few lesser known companies. Currently our first year of data is free and $100.00 a year, not a month, after that. No mention of Starlink yet but cmon!

Latency actual numbers for Starlink are supposed to already be 25ms - 37 ms before lasers. It is expected they will be <25-30ms in the next few phases of deployment.

Excerpt:

"Latency of Internet Services, Software, and Devices

On DSL and, cable internet connections, latencies of less than 100 milliseconds (ms) are typical, and less than 25 ms is often possible. With satellite internet connections, on the other hand, typical latencies can be 500 ms or higher."

Source: https://www.lifewire.com/latency-on-computer-networks-818119

 

 

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3 hours ago, chirakawa said:

I'll add a third big question.  How many of us will still be alive when the service goes mainstream?

Since Starlink will be "mainstream" worldwide within the next few years, I expect most of us will still be around. I'm a few weeks shy of 77 and I certainly expect to see it happen. I just wish there was a beta user sign up available... :)

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