SpaceX has confirmed some details of its Starlink internet service beta test, via SpaceX engineer Kate Tice on today’s launch webcast for its most recent Starlink satellite mission. Tice said that SpaceX’s service has demonstrated latency low enough to allow it to play the “fastest multiplayer” networked online games, and that it has also shown download speeds in excess of 100Mbps, which she added is fast enough to stream multiple HD video streams at once, with additional bandwidth to spare.
Anyone who has spent any time using an existing connection in a rural, poorly covered area that relies on either traditional satellite or perhaps limited cellular-based service will know that both these parameters far exceed the capabilities of most existing options. Starlink’s goal is to leapfrog what’s out there already with its low Earth orbit constellation, which has the advantage of transmitting its signal much closer in to Earth than the far-out geostationary satellites that provide legacy networking capabilities.
Tice also said that while performance so far has been impressive during the private beta, the company expects both more features and greater capabilities to be unlocked over time through updates. She also said that SpaceX recently completed it first inter-satellite link between Starlink spacecraft — which can transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data between satellites via optical laser, at speeds that will be the fastest available anywhere for inter-satellite communications. This is a core capability for the network, which will rely on hand-offs between Starlink satellites to maintain connections as they orbit the Earth.
While the current private beta is essentially limited to SpaceX employees, and designed to help them fine-tune the network as it comes online for the first time, Tice said that the public Starlink beta is still on track to kick off later this year. SpaceX has asked those interested in participating to sign up via its Starlink website, and earlier this year a leak from said website provide a detailed look at how the public beta will operate when live.