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Starlink speeds accelerate in Q2, Ookla says

Starlink's overall speeds continue to outpace those of fellow satellite broadband services Viasat and HughesNet, but its median download speeds in the US are starting to enter the neighborhood of fixed-line broadband networks, according to Ookla's latest round of Speedtest data.

Ookla's data for Q2 2021 found that Starlink's median download speeds in the US climbed to 97.23 Mbit/s, up from 65.72 Mbit/s in Q1 2021. By comparison, HughesNet's median download speed in the US clocked in at 19.73 Mbit/s in Q2 2021 (up from 15.7 Mbit/s in Q1 2021), while Viasat's was 18.13 Mbit/s in Q2 2021 (up from 17.67 Mbit/s) in the prior quarter.

Click here for a larger version of this image.  
(Source: Ookla)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Ookla)

While Starlink's US download speeds are "fast enough to handle most of the needs of modern online life," they do trail the 115.22 Mbit/s median download speed for all fixed broadband providers in the US, Ookla explained in its report.

In some areas, Starlink's US download median speed has surpassed its wireline cousins. In its analysis of the Ookla data, PCMag (Ookla and PCMag are both owned by Ziff Davis) notes that Starlink's median download speed in Morgan County, Alabama, reached 168 Mbit/s. Starlink's slowest median download speed for the US in the quarter, at 64.5 Mbit/s, appeared in Madison County, Indiana.

There's a bit more parity between Starlink and tested wireline networks on the upstream side. Ookla said Starlink's median upload speed for Q2 2021 was 13.89 Mbit/s, compared to a median upload speed of 17.18 Mbit/s among US fixed wireline networks. Both Viasat and HughesNet trailed with median upload speeds of 3.38 Mbit/s and 2.43 Mbit/s, respectively.

Starlink's growing network of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites continued to deliver relatively low latencies, important for apps such as online gaming and videoconferencing, when compared to geosynchronous (GEO) systems. Ookla said Starlink's median latency in Q1 2021 was 45 milliseconds. While that was well behind the 14 milliseconds of latency found on fixed-line networks, it was considerably better than the median latency for Viasat (630 milliseconds) and HughesNet (724 milliseconds).

Click here for a larger version of this image.  
(Source: Ookla)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Ookla)

Ookla's latest speed readings come nearly a year after SpaceX's Starlink started to accept beta customers for its LEO-powered satellite broadband service.

Beta users rise to 90,000

The caveat attached to to all this Starlink speed data is the fact that tests are occurring under a still-light overall network load that will only come under more strain as more users are joined to the LEO-based network. But those user numbers are on the rise.

According to CNBC, Starlink told the FCC in late July it has about 90,000 users worldwide – an addition of about 20,000 in the past month – and has about 500,000 orders for service placed.

Among other new Starlink tidbits, PCMag reports that SpaceX filed an application at the FCC for a ruggedized, "high performance" version of a Starlink dish optimized for cars, boats and other moving vehicles, and equipped to deal with "harsh environments" involving extreme cold and heat.

Those new high-performance models "will operate with higher gain and lower transmit power (thus maintaining a consistent EIRP compared to other SpaceX Services user terminals), a higher scan angle, and features that ruggedize the unit for use in harsh environments," the company wrote in the application, according to PCMag.

Word of the new, ruggedized dish follows recent complaints that the current Starlink dish goes into "thermal shutdown" once the equipment reaches a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and restarts when it reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The development also follows earlier stated plans for Starlink to pursue a blanket license for Earth Stations in Motion, or ESIMs, that would enable the service to connect to trucks, planes, ships and other relatively large moving vehicles.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.

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