Starlink is one of the fastest-growing consumer products ever created. With that being said, it’s not without its flaws.
In this article, I try to address the 9 disadvantages of Starlink, ranging from diminishing speeds to its effect on the environment.
1. Decreasing Speed
The single biggest topic of discontent among subscribers, especially those located in North America, is the decreasing speeds that they started to experience.
As Starlink grew at warp speed, its network became more and more congested. In 2022 alone, it added over 850,000 subscribers, a significant percentage of whom are located in Canada or the United States.
Starlink, despite launching satellites into orbit at a record pace, hasn’t been able to combat its speed issues just yet.
Customers largely seem to be satisfied with the service, though, especially those located outside North America.
Personally, I regularly surf on download speeds of over 200 Mbps here in Germany. Keeping my fingers crossed for all users across the pond.
With how rapidly Starlink is launching new sats into space, it wouldn’t surprise me if service quality will improve for everyone involved very soon.
Lastly, even at lower speeds, Starlink still performs substantially better compared to geostationary providers like HughesNet or Viasat.
2. Poor Customer Service
Customer service, or lack thereof, is another huge disadvantage of Starlink. Some former subscribers went as far as stating that “customer service for Starlink was non-existent.”
That sentiment is largely met by members of various Starlink forums. A Reddit user, for example, called the service “hot garbage.”
The poor customer service quality is little surprising given that Starlink has surpassed 1.5 million subscribers in record time. The onslaught of new subscribers was and still is overwhelming its customer support team.
Luckily, it seems that Starlink is aware of those issues and plans to address them. Starlink currently has job openings for over 50 (bilingual) customer support roles.
The usage of bilingual support agents will also double the markets that Starlink can theoretically serve. Many of those will likely serve US-based subscribers during peak times, which should alleviate some of the pains that they currently feel.
A hope of mine is that Starlink extends its contact options. Right now, it only offers a chat-based system. In case you need to get in touch with Starlink – I detailed how to contact support via said chat here.
Introducing phone calls or potentially even home visits would be game-changing in terms of customer retention – especially considering the limited size of the satellite internet market.
Lastly, the waiting times also extend to Starlink’s availability. Some areas have been on a waitlist for more than 2 years now.
Luckily, there are a few options to skip the waitlist entirely, which we detailed in a separate article that you can find here.
3. Data Caps
In essence, customers will be limited to 1 TB per month after which they will be deprioritized and thus experience slower speeds.
However, the cap is only applicable to those subscribed to Business (Priority) and Maritime (Mobile Priority), respectively.
Once those subscribers exceed their cap, they’ll be downgraded to what Starlink dubs “Standard” data, which is essentially what Residential users experience.
Meanwhile, those subscribed to Roam and Best Effort always receive Basic Access data and are thus experiencing the lowest speeds of the three user groups.
4. No Installation Help
One of Starlink’s biggest advantages, which is the easiness with which the hardware can be installed, is simultaneously a detriment.
Starlink largely leaves customers to their own devices when it comes to setting up the system.
And although most users won’t need any help (since installation is pretty much self-explanatory as detailed in our guide), others may indeed require help.
What’s particularly surprising is the fact that Starlink does not even offer installation services for its business customers, namely those on Business, Aviation, or Maritime plans.
However, Starlink does put its B2B customers in touch with vetted installers who should be capable enough.
If you personally need help, then feel free to check our professional installers directory.
5. Affected By Weather
Starlink’s performance, just like any other satellite internet provider for that matter, is negatively affected by poor weather conditions.
While Starlink performs reliably well during slight weather disruptions such as fog or stronger winds, its service can be disrupted during (heavy) rains or snowfalls.
In general, satellite Internet connections utilize microwave radio frequencies, which travel in straight lines and thus cannot move through solid objects.
Consequently, water molecules in the air can disrupt those radio waves and either lead to slower speeds or even outages.
Starlink has since introduced some features to mitigate its dependence on weather. For instance, its heating mode will automatically remove snow that amasses on the dishy.
6. Needs Clear View
Unfortunately, poor weather isn’t the only disruptor to Starlink’s performance. Another disadvantage of Starlink is that it requires a clear view of the sky to function optimally.
Its radio frequencies aren’t just impaired by water molecules. Houses, trees, and other solid objects can lead to signal disruptions as well.
Luckily, Starlink’s dish will automatically adjust itself into the best position. Furthermore, the app will let you know how much the dishy’s view is actually obstructed.
In some cases, it may thus be advisable to install the dish on your rooftop or other buildings that tower above potential hindrances.
7. Possible Environmental Effects
Although Starlink is not necessarily dangerous to humans, some concerns do remain. One of the biggest ones is its effects on the environment.
More precisely, Starlink’s thousands of satellites can obstruct the views of telescopes that astronomers use and lead to visible streaks on the imagery they take (like in the title image of this article).
In fact, some of its satellites are even visible with just your bare eyes. Clear visibility of the night sky isn’t just important for scientific purposes but also to spot threatening objects, such as asteroids, early on.
To SpaceX’s credit, the firm has tried addressing those concerns. In July 2022, it published a document highlighting the initiatives it already underwent and plans to undergo to mitigate the negative effects of its constellation.
Those include using a darker coating, adopting specular surfaces to deflect lighting into another direction, optimizing flight operations, and so forth.
SpaceX also remains in constant exchange with those very same astronomers to ensure whatever it implements meets their requirements.
8. Consistent Changes
Another aspect that may throw off some folks are the constant price and policy changes that Starlink goes through.
On February 22nd, 2023, Starlink announced that it would change prices for consumers in the United States.
While some are paying less, others are now charged up to $120 per month for the Residential option. RV customers also have to cope with an increased monthly bill.
On top of that, the Portability option was removed for US-based subscribers first and then for new users altogether.
And just 11 months prior, Starlink already upped its pricing from $99 per month to $110.
Having to cope with constant price hikes is certainly something customers won’t take lightly, especially those without any real alternatives.
9. Buggy At Times
Lastly, Starlink may experience the occasional bug as well. In November 2023, for example, users had their accounts disabled likely due to a security bug.
Widespread outages, which can render the service (globally) inaccessible, have also occurred in the past.
To add on, Starlink often doesn’t properly communicate what the issue was caused by, adding to the frustration that customers may feel at times.
That said, problems do occur infrequently. In the majority of times, your usage will be unaffected and you likely won’t have even noticed that anything happened.
Yes, Starlink is a vast improvement over geostationary services like HughesNet. No, it is not without its flaws – all of which I tried to address in this article.
It appears to me that many of those disadvantages can and will be resolved over time, for example, through the rapid expansion of its constellation.
However, customers should be made aware of its current (and hopefully temporary) pitfalls. With that being said, let me know if anything remains unclear!