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SpaceX's Starlink: First public beta results look good – but Musk says they'll get even better

A Starlink beta participant has shared early experiences of SpaceX's satellite internet service – and it looks promising.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

SpaceX's Starlink internet public beta – dubbed the 'Better Than Nothing Beta' test – kicked off last week and the first results are starting to roll in. 

The Starlink service currently costs $99 a month with a $499 startup fee for the user terminal, a tripod and Wi-Fi router. 

Starlink told its early internet beta testers "expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms [milliseconds] over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all". 

SEE: Hiring Kit: 5G Wireless System Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

The service is possible in a range between 44º and 52º degrees north latitude, while the beta is initially targeting rural residents in select regions of northern US and southern Canada.

Reddit user FourthEchelon19, who posted a screenshot of his or her Starlink beta invite last week, over the weekend shared a picture of the user terminal dish and tripod, and detailed some of their early experiences with SpaceX's low-Earth orbit satellite broadband service, delivered from nearly 800 satellites

The account of the experience does line up with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's claims about it. That is, that Starlink will offer a low-latency service with higher broadband speeds than that offered by many ISPs in rural US areas. 

FourthEchelon19 posted an image showing what he or she said is a typical result on Speedtest.net of a 134Mbps download speeds and 14.8Mbps upload speeds with a latency of 34ms. 

Another test it shared on Speedtest.net had a latency of 41ms, 97.14Mbps download and 18.6Mbps upload speeds. Speedtest says a good latency for playing online games is from 0ms to 0.59ms, while an acceptable latency is between 60ms and 129ms. 

FourthEchelon19 also reported experiencing a "couple of interruptions, probably from satellite transitions, but almost 100% steady since initial setup" and that it'd been "streaming 1,440p and 4K with zero buffering on YouTube". The interruptions last about 10 to 15 seconds and happen every few minutes. 

In a later post, FourthEchelon19 added that he or she had played a round in Modern Warfare with latency averaging 43ms, which got as high as 70ms for a couple of seconds, and as low as 35ms.

"Very solid and consistent enough to play easily. After a long round, there's some interruptions, which cause latency infrequently, these are likely satellite handoffs, which should be less noticeable as more are deployed," FourthEchelon19 wrote.

SEE: Elon Musk: Yes, SpaceX's Starlink internet will even work on high-speed transportation

Responding to the Reddit post as it was shared on Twitter, Musk said Starlink's latency and bandwidth will improve "significantly soon". 

In the invite to public beta testers, Starlink said by the summer of 2021 the service will achieve a latency of between 16ms and 19ms, but that would be after it launches more satellites, installs more ground stations and improves its networking software. 

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