Frustrated with your Starlink download and upload speeds? Don’t worry, I got you covered.
In this article, I’ll explain why you may experience slow speeds, if Starlink will become faster, and give you 8 tips on how to improve performance.
Why Is Starlink So Slow?
You may experience lackluster download and upload speeds for a variety of different reasons. First and foremost, where you live plays a huge role in performance.
More precisely, the number of Starlink users in proximity to you competing for bandwidth will determine download and upload speeds.
A given Starlink satellite only has a limited amount of data it can transmit. So, the more data requests are being sent out of a certain location (Starlink cells are shaped hexagonally), the lower the data allotment per user.
The problem is further amplified for those located in the northern and southern hemispheres as well as out at sea.
In the most northern and southern places of this world, such as Finland or Alaska, you’ll have fewer satellites passing by.
For the first shell of the Starlink system, which operates at an altitude of 550 km, the designed elevation angle is around 40° for users, with a possibility of changing it or applying an elevation of 25° for users in other shells.
This means that the satellites are designed to be seen from the ground at an angle of 25° to 40° above the horizon1.
This design means that for users near the equator, where the horizon is essentially flat, satellites in low orbits are visible over a large portion of the sky.
But as you move toward the poles, the curve of the Earth means that the same satellites are only visible near the horizon.
Because they are lower in the sky, the satellites have to be further away to be seen, which reduces the number that is visible at any given time. This could give the impression of there being fewer satellites over the polar regions.
Additionally, the constellation design and orbit inclination of Starlink satellites may be optimized for coverage in areas of higher population density, which are typically not located in extreme northern or southern latitudes. Hence, fewer satellites might be deployed or pass over these regions.
Similarly, those out at sea and using Starlink Maritime are, on average, much further away from ground stations.
As a result, the signal from your antenna to the satellite (uplink) is passed along to multiple satellites using inter-satellite links (ISL), down to a ground station back up to the satellite network, and finally down to the antenna.
Therefore, latency out at sea is oftentimes much larger as the signal needs longer to travel. And if said Maritime user competes with other Maritime subscribers for bandwidth, then speeds may be negatively affected as well.
Luckily, not all is lost. In the coming chapter, I’ll answer why exactly Starlink may become faster for everyone involved.
Will Starlink Get Faster?
Although many subscribers remain plagued by slower speeds, there’s hope on the horizon. Starlink should indeed become faster in the next coming months and years.
First of all, the deployment of more satellites will increase both the download and upload speed as well as the latency users experience.
Generally speaking, the fewer satellites you have roaming Earth, the more users you have taking up bandwidth from a single satellite.
Starlink’s V1.5 satellites offer around 20 Gbps of bandwidth each and are normally launched in batches of 50 – 57.
Assuming that around 50 satellites make it to their designated orbit, then Starlink is technically increasing its total bandwidth by around 1 Tbps (or 1,000 Gbps) per launch.
Additionally, Starlink is expanding satellite throughput as well. It recently began to launch Gen2 Mini satellites, each of which can provide 80 Gbps.
However, since the V2 Mini’s, in spite of their name, are around 4x heavier than V1.5 sats, they can ‘only’ be transported in groups of around 20 to 22 with each launch.
Again, assuming 20 make it to their designated orbital shells, then Starlink can increase total throughput by 1.8 Tbps with each launch.
Starlink eventually aims to deploy V2 satellites, which are even more potent. With that said, the V2 satellites are also much heavier and can thus only be transported on SpaceX’s Starship rocket, which remains in development.
Similarly, the more ground stations are available, the less each station needs to handle in terms of data traffic.
This can increase the effective bandwidth available to users, as each ground station can only handle a finite amount of data at a given time.
Moreover, Starlink is also constantly releasing new software improvements. This could involve updates to signal processing algorithms, routing protocols, beamforming algorithms, and so forth.
Another aspect that could lead to improved performance is heightened competition. If fewer users are competing for bandwidth in any given cell, then more is available on a per-user basis.
Countries around the globe continue to expand their fiber footprint and 5G coverage. And other satellite-based competitors, such as Amazon’s Kuiper Systems, will certainly attract customers as well once they go live.
That reality has already taken shape in Europe where I am based. Here in Germany, I regularly experience download speeds around 200 Mbps (see picture below).
As a result, Starlink performance, given how critically important it is to SpaceX’s goal of reaching Mars, is very likely to improve over the coming years.
How To Improve Your Starlink Speeds
The performance of Starlink, as outlined above, is multifaceted and thus dependent on a variety of different factors.
As such, there are multiple options that could lead to improved performance. Luckily, you’re not limited to either one, so feel free to experiment with any of the eight tips outlined below.
Tip #1: Upgrade Your Plan
The most straightforward way of upping your speed is to upgrade to another tier. Starlink allocates bandwidth based on the plan a user is subscribed to.
Here’s how Starlink prioritizes network resources across its plans: subscribers of Business (Priority) and Maritime (Mobile Priority) get the highest speeds, followed by Residential (Standard), and then by Roam (Mobile).
Now, there are a few caveats. First, you will be charged more in some instances – for example, when upgrading from Residential to Business.
In other cases, such as switching from Roam to Residential, you’re charged less in exchange for a lack of mobility.
Second, changing plans isn’t always possible. In parts of the United States, which run at capacity, switching from Roam to Residential isn’t allowed.
With that said, changing your service plan, if possible, is by far the easiest way to improve your speed.
Tip #2: Minimize Distance To The Router
The Wi-Fi signal emanating from a router spreads out like waves in a pond, and like these waves, it becomes weaker the further you get from the source.
Stronger signals can carry more data, which means faster speeds. So, being closer to the router generally means having a stronger signal, and thus faster speeds.
In general, for the best Wi-Fi performance, you should try to position your router centrally in your home or office and avoid placing it behind thick walls or other major obstructions.
If, for whatever reason, repositioning your is not an option, then you could utilize Starlink’s Mesh Router, which you can purchase in the shop.
The Mesh Router essentially extends your main router’s Wi-Fi signal. Make sure your primary Starlink router (from your Starlink Kit) and mesh nodes are evenly spread out, but not too far from each other.
Mesh nodes work best when they’re no more than one to two rooms apart from each other. As a result, the bigger your house, the more mesh nodes you need to procure.
Tip #3: Get A Third-Party Router
Not all routers are created equal. Some have more powerful transmitters and more sensitive receivers, which can extend their effective range.
Others use beamforming technology to direct their signals towards specific devices rather than broadcasting in all directions, which can also help to improve speeds at a distance.
In order to use a third-party router, you first need to bypass the main Starlink router (from the hardware kit).
Router models, such as the TP-Link Archer AX73, TP-Link Archer AX80, ASUS ROG Rapture, or NETGEAR Nighthawk X10, should all be suitable options.
Tip #4: Use An Ethernet Cable
Using Ethernet cables oftentimes provides faster data transfer, thus leading to reduced latency as well as higher download and upload speeds.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have the original V1 dish (and thus use the Gen2 rectangular version), then you need to purchase Starlink’s proprietary Ethernet Adapter
Starlink’s Ethernet Adapter will cost you another $25 if you’re located in the United States, plus whatever you end up paying for the ethernet cable and USB-C adapter (if needed).
Tip #5: Minimize Obstructions
Your antenna connects to satellites via microwave radio frequencies, which travel in straight lines and thus cannot move through solid objects.
If they are met by obstacles, including trees or houses, then the connection simply breaks. This often leads to outages such as the “No Signal Received” error.
As a result, your antenna has to reestablish the connection, which will negatively affect latency and speeds.
Therefore, for optimal performance, it’s usually recommended to install the Starlink dish in a location with a clear view of the sky, away from obstructions. I detailed how to minimize obstructions in a separate article that you can find here.
Tip #6: Limit Simultaneous Usage
Wi-Fi networks have a certain amount of bandwidth available, which can be thought of as the highway that data travels on.
Each device connected to your Wi-Fi network uses a portion of that bandwidth. The more devices that are connected and actively using the network, the more congested the bandwidth becomes, and the slower each device’s internet speed can be.
Also, the type of activity that each device is engaged in matters. Some activities, like streaming video or playing online games, require more bandwidth (are more data-intensive) than others, like browsing a webpage or sending an email.
So, if multiple devices are performing high-bandwidth activities at the same time, this can significantly slow down the internet speed for all devices on the network.
As a result, you’d want to execute large file downloads and other types of data-intensive activities during the night when usage is not existent.
And if you have children in the house, limit their usage to certain times of the day. Additionally, some streaming platforms do allow you to decrease the video quality, thus freeing up bandwidth for others.
Tip #7: Reset Or Reboot Router
Rebooting and/or resetting your router can help improve performance as well, especially if you haven’t done that in some time.
Here are a few reasons why rebooting might help:
- Clears Memory and Processor Usage: Over time, your router’s memory can fill up with various tasks, slowing down its performance. Rebooting the router gives it a fresh start, clears the memory, and allows it to run more efficiently.
- Resolves Network Congestion: If you have a lot of devices connected to your Wi-Fi at once, it can lead to network congestion, resulting in slower speeds. Rebooting might help alleviate this issue by disconnecting all the devices and allowing them to reconnect more efficiently.
- Software Glitches: Routers, like any other piece of technology, can have software glitches. Sometimes these glitches can lead to a decrease in performance, which can be fixed by a simple reboot.
Similarly, resetting your Starlink router can help as well. However, it’s a more drastic step. This will wipe all of your settings, including your Wi-Fi password, and you’ll need to set everything up again from scratch.
Thus, it is typically only recommended if you’re having serious issues with your router and a reboot doesn’t solve the problem.
Tip #8: Split Your Wi-Fi Network
The last neat feature that Starlink implemented is allowing you to split up the Starlink Wi-Fi network into separate 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections.
While 2.4 GHz has a better range, it transmits data at a slower speed. 5 GHz, on the other hand, provides faster speeds but doesn’t have as good a range.
As a result, you can achieve faster download and upload speeds by connecting to the 5 GHz network. I detailed how to do that in a separate article that you can find here.
From adjusting your plan and minimizing distance to the router, to managing simultaneous usage and effectively splitting your Wi-Fi network, implementing these strategies can significantly improve your Starlink internet speeds.
I trust that Musk and SpaceX, given their history of excellence, will eventually figure this out and deliver on Starlink’s promise of high-speed internet across the globe.