The median download speed seen by users of Space X Starlink satellite broadband in the U.S. in the third quarter was 87.25 Mbps, according to Ookla, provider of a widely used speed test app. That was a decline from the second quarter, when Starlink users saw a median download speed of 97.23 Mbps.
A blog post from Ookla’s head of content speculates that this could be “a function of adding more customers.”
Ookla saw sufficient samples during the third quarter to analyze Starlink performance in 304 U.S. counties and found that the county with the fastest Starlink speed was Santa Fe County, New Mexico, where the median download speed was 146.58 Mbps.
The slowest Starlink speeds were found in Drummond Township, Michigan. The median download speed there was 46.63 Mbps – nearly 100 Mbps slower than the speed seen in Santa Fe County.
The Ookla blog post notes that even Starlink’s slowest median broadband speeds exceed the FCC broadband download speed definition of 25 Mbps. What the blog post doesn’t say, though, is that Starlink’s performance is below the 100 Mbps speeds the company would be required to provide if the FCC gives final authorization to the $885.5 million that the company was tentatively awarded in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.
Some critics have questioned whether Starlink can meet its RDOF speed and coverage commitments when its volume of customers increases, and the latest Ookla data doesn’t do anything to belie that belief.
Perhaps it’s too soon to make broad generalizations based on the Ookla data, but it’s worth noting that until now, Starlink’s performance has tended to increase over time, rather than decreasing as was seen between third and fourth quarter.
Telecompetitor will be watching closely to see if the third quarter Starlink speed data was just an anomaly or if it is a harbinger of future speed declines.
Starlink Vs. Other Satellite Broadband
Ookla also looked at Starlink latency, which was a median of 44 ms. While that is higher than the 15 ms seen for fixed broadband providers, it is within RDOF low-latency guidelines. And it was orders of magnitude better than the 629 ms and 744 ms seen by Viasat and HughesNet, respectively.
The latency data confirms Starlink’s differentiating point in the satellite broadband market. While Viasat and HughesNet operate geostationary satellites, SpaceX is deploying low earth orbit satellites, which are closer to the earth and therefore have lower latency.
Starlink also far outperformed HughesNet and Viasat on speed, according to the Ookla blog post. HughesNet’s median download speed was 19.3 Mbps in third quarter and Viasat’s was 18.75 Mbps.