SpaceX Starlink Projected Latency vs. My Wave Cable Latency

SpaceX is claiming it’s Starlink latency will be similar to cable latency.

“Because of the low orbits, SpaceX says its broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms, similar to cable or fiber systems.”

Network latency is an expression of how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another. Latency is measured by sending a packet of data that is returned to the sender; the round-trip time is considered the latency. This is called pinging.

I have a data file of recorded ping data from my Wave connection from October 25th to November 8th, so thought I would make a comparison.   A simple Python program produced this graphic:

Screenshot 2018-11-17 14.29.22

The median ping was 33.87. If Starlink can maintain 25ms of latency, they will be better than my cable connection.


SpaceX Low Latency Starlink Swarm

SpaceX received FCC approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 satellites that were approved eight months ago. That amounts to 11,943 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service.


The newly approved satellites would use frequencies between 37.5 and 42GHz for space-to-Earth transmissions and frequencies between 47.2 and 51.4GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions, the FCC said.

SpaceX’s initial 4,425 satellites are expected to orbit at altitudes of 1,110km to 1,325km, a fraction of the altitude of traditional broadband satellites. Because of the low orbits, SpaceX says its broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms, similar to cable or fiber systems. SpaceX has also said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access worldwide. No word on data caps or cost of access.  It is high latency, data caps and high cost that makes current satellite broadband so undesirable.

FCC rules require the launch of 50 percent of satellites within six years of authorization and all of them within nine years unless a waiver is granted.

While all this sounds positive for rural families and business seeking broadband access the deployments schedule and orbits will determine the access. Low satellites will pass overhead rapidly only providing a small window of access if another satellite does not pick up the signal and continue the connection. While low latency is good it does not mean much if there is no access window. This is area for more exploration. Stay Tuned.

A portion of this report was adapted from this Arstechnica article.

SpaceX Changes Its Starlink Internet Satellite Plans to Minimize Space Junk

starlink_graphicSpaceX has amended its plan to built out an array of internet-providing, Starlink satellites. Most recently, the company requested that a portion of its constellation of spacecraft be placed at a lower altitude to avoid creating any unnecessary space junk.

That’s according to a new application filed with the Federal Communications Commission on November 9, which requested that 1,584 of its satellites be placed 550 kilometers above the Earth’s surface instead of the originally planned 1,150 km. SpaceX maintains that this would reduce the risk of adding to the already thousands of tons of floating space debris orbiting the planet.

“This modest modification to the SpaceX Authorization will slightly reduce the total number of spacecraft in the constellation, meet all required protection criteria for other systems operating in the same frequencies, and cause no overall increase in radio frequency interference,” stated the document.

Read more HERE.

ALSO: FCC BLASTS OFF — Brace yourself for space puns, FCC-watchers. The commission votes today on a slew of space-related items, including orders aimed at granting satellite companies access to the U.S. market to offer broadband services. Another order will authorize SpaceX to use more spectrum for its broadband satellite constellation. And the FCC will consider a rulemaking to update its regulations of “space debris.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Broadband Space News

SpaceX wants to lower the bar for its first batch of Starlink broadband satellites, with the aim of beginning deployment by the end of 2019.

The revised plan is laid out for regulators at the Federal Communications Commission in filings that seek a lower orbit for 1,584 of the more than 4,400 satellites it envisions launching. The new target orbit would be 550 kilometers (342 miles) in altitude, as opposed to the 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) orbit described in SpaceX’s initial round of filings.

The FCC signed off on SpaceX’s original plan in March, and would have to approve the revisions after putting them through a public comment period.

In its filings, SpaceX said it was changing the plan based on its experience with Tintin A and B, the two prototype satellites it put into orbit in February.

Full Article is HERE.

“SpaceX intends to launch its first batch of satellites to begin populating a new orbital shell before the end of 2019,” it said. At least half of the 4,400-plus satellites are required to be in operation by March 29, 2024.


Having the satellite in low Earth orbit as opposed to a much higher geostationary orbit reduces the lag time, or latency, for data transmissions. In May, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the response time for the Tintin satellites was “pretty good,” with latency amounting to 25 milliseconds. “Good enough to play fast-response video games,” he tweeted.

When the low-orbit constellation is fully deployed, latency could be reduced to as little as 15 milliseconds, “at which point it would be virtually unnoticeable to almost all users,” SpaceX said in today’s filing.


Space Month at the FCC and Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission is launching “Space Month” in November to focus the agency’s attention on the role of satellite communications, its chairman, Ajit Pai, writes in a new blog post previewing the upcoming agenda for its monthly meeting.

“The FCC will take up nine items to ensure that America leads in the New Space Age, with an emphasis on cutting through the red tape,” he writes, including “voting on a package of orders that would give the green light to companies seeking to roll out new and expanded services using new non-geostationary satellite constellations.”

Source: POLITICO Space

Speaking of constellations, we’ll also be voting on a package of orders that would give the green light to companies seeking to roll out new and expanded services using new non-geostationary satellite constellations. Kepler is looking to create a new satellite system for the Internet of Things, and LeoSat would like to offer high-speed connectivity for enterprises and underserved communities. We’re aiming to approve both requests. And we’ve also targeted for approval the requests of SpaceX and TeleSat Canada to expand the frequencies they can use so that their fleets of low Earth orbit satellites can offer even better broadband service.

Source: FCC Blog [Emphsis Added]

Fact Sheet Explains Why “Satellite Is Not Broadband” But?

Community Networks Newsletter

As a nation our goal is ubiquitous broadband coverage so every person, regardless of where they live, can obtain the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access necessary for modern times. For people in rural areas, where large national wireline providers don’t typically invest in the infrastructure for high-quality connectivity, satellite Internet access is often their only choice. In our Satellite Is Not Broadband fact sheet we address some of the reasons why depending on satellite Internet access to serve rural America is a mistake.

Download Fact Sheet HERE.


The data sheet is correct satellite broadband is expensive, it suffers from high latency and from weather interruptions.

Latency is the time it takes for a signal to get from the ground to satellite and back to the ground again. It is not a big issue when you’re sending emails or trying to view a static webpage. However, for online education, telehealth and virtual reality high latency can be a showstopper for any service requiring real-time communications.

SpaceX has proposed to reduce the latency issue with it’s Starlink Program. SpaceX’s idea is to put its satellites into much lower orbit than usual, in order to cut the latency of the services. A typical internet satellite in geostationary orbit is more than 22,000 miles above ground. According to SpaceX’s FCC filings, the company wants to put its Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, between 684 and 823 miles in the air.

Space x wants to initially deploy 800 satellites in low Earth orbit, in order to cover “initial U.S. and international coverage.” Then it wants to throw over 7,000 more into the sky at “Very Low Earth Orbit” (VLEO, in this case around 211 miles up) to fill in the blanks as needed.

Also, SpaceX is not the only satellite company seeking to provide broadband services. OneWeb, Telesat, and Space Norway have also received the FCC’s go-ahead for similar low altitude satellite services. The competition should reduce the price and smaller low altitude satellites will reduce the latency problem, but all will have to deal with the weather.

Given the Telco focus on 5G which is not a rural friendly technology due to the low user density which makes the return on investment questionable, low altitude satellite may be the only options for rural communities for a long time. Getting taxpayers to pay for the fiber networks that 5G needs to cover rural communities are going to be a tough nut to crack.

Major Satellite Operator CEOs Clash Over 5G

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the top satellite operators remain optimistic that they can take advantage of new growth opportunities in areas such as In-Flight Connectivity (IFC), 5G, and connected transportation. This was one of the main takeaways of the “Satellite and the Hyper-Connected World: The view from leading operators and businesses” panel at World Satellite Business Week (WSBW) in Paris.

More details on satellite 5G strategy HERE.


While the panel was largely conducted in good spirits, the main clash came around 5G and the relationships between satellite players and telcos going forward, which provoked a little controversy. While Intelsat has pioneered some interesting spectrum sharing initiatives in the US, it seemed clear that Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg had a very different view than Intelsat’s. “I don’t see the mobile operators as our friends. We need to be extremely wary of how we throw ourselves on the 5G bandwagon. Spectrum is hugely important for us,” he said.

Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler took an opposite view, believing what Intelsat was doing could be key for the satellite industry to play a fuller role on the 5G landscape going forward. “5G is a huge gamechanger for us. We see satellite as part of the standards discussion now. Standards around 5G have huge potential for our sector. There will be multi-faceted ways to play in 5G. Satellite has unique attributes. We have a lot of work to do to embrace this (5G),” he added.

Viasat was a big winner in the Connect America Auction, details HERE. This is a story that needs more digging, just what is Viasat rural broadband strategy.  Stay Tuned.