Fiber optic providers do not have to fear competition from the Starlink satellite network operated by the Elon Musk company SpaceX. Even in the planned final stage, Starlink will not achieve nationwide coverage of households with at least 100 Mbit / s in the downstream, according to a study published on Monday by electrical engineer Kristof Obermann from the Technical University of Central Hesse, which he is doing on behalf of the Federal Association of Broadband Communication (Breko) Has.
Even with very optimistic assumptions, a maximum of 1.3 million 100 Mbit / s connections or 130,000 1 Gbit / s connections could be implemented in Germany via the Starlink network, the study calculates. The upstream bit rates correspond to a maximum of 30 to 40 percent of the downstream bit rates. According to the analysis, satellite internet is therefore not an alternative for fiber optic connections into buildings and apartments. With the latter, bit rates of 1 GBit / s could be realized symmetrically up to 400 GBit / s in the future.
Capacity for everyone
The total capacity made available at Starlink and competitors such as OneWeb or Amazon / Kuiper is far too low “to be able to tap significant market shares with corresponding bit rates”, writes Obermann. The capacity would have to be shared by all participants in a footprint. “If the performance limits are reached, this leads to reduced participant data rates and availability.” With a total data rate of the satellite of 1000 Gbit / s in the downstream, there would be a data rate of 1 Mbit / s per key with around one million active participants.
The Starlink network also requires a high level of installation effort on the part of the subscriber, explains Obermann. Even compared to existing cellular technologies such as not being competitive. This is due to the fact that “portable terminals are not available”. It is also not foreseeable when and whether these will come at all. Radio connections are also generally much easier to eavesdrop on than optical lines, for example.
Private customers “are not necessarily the core target group for Starlink,” says the author. More important are companies that need a fast and reliable Internet all over the world for the Internet of Things, autonomous driving and machine communication. The Starlink network benefits here from the fact that intercontinental connections can sometimes “be implemented with considerably lower latency than with fiber optic cables”.
Private customers not core target group
In general, Starlink will be a dynamic network with an extremely large number of nodes and a “high degree of meshing”, says Obermann. Assuming appropriate routing or traffic management, an extremely high level of availability can in principle be achieved. The potential for a worldwide area-wide supply of areas with low population density such as rural areas, the world’s oceans or polar regions is interesting. The economic, political and also military importance of the network should not be underestimated.
According to the study, beta tests have been running in selected regions in this country since March, explains Obermann. Around 90,000 interested parties in 12 countries are currently using the offer. 500,000 paying customers are to be reached this year. At the end of May 2021, Starlink had implemented 1663 of a total of 42,000 planned satellites, according to the study.
Starlink’s beta test is currently at $ 99 per month plus $ 499 for the technology it needs. There are downstream bit rates in the range from 50 to 150 Mbit / s and latencies between 20 to 40 milliseconds. Current speed tests show average data rates of 79 Mbit / s in the downstream and 13.8 Mbit / s in the upstream.
A line of sight between the satellite and the receiving antenna at the participant’s premises is required. Snow, heavy rain or wind can lead to a degradation of the bit rates. The Starlink satellite set has a very high power consumption, which tends to be permanently over 110 watts with peak loads of up to 150 watts, says Obermann. This would add electricity costs of around 24 euros per month.