Starlink Speeds Drop Significantly in the US Amid Congestion Woes
Median download speeds for Starlink users in the US reached only 62.53Mbps during the second quarter, a significant decrease from 90.55Mbps in Q1, according to Ookla.
By Michael Kan
Download speeds for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet system are seeing a sharp drop for users in the US and Canada, according to Ookla’s Speedtest data.
During Q2—April to June—the median download rate for US-based Starlink users settled in at 62.53Mbps, a decrease from 90.55Mbps in Q1. Upload speeds also experienced a decline, reaching only 7.24Mbps, down from 9.33Mbps.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the median download speeds came in at 75.73Mbps, a drop from 97.40Mbps, according to Ookla’s report, which is based on data from Speedtest.net, a site anyone can use to check the speed of their internet connection.
Ookla blames the falling speeds on Starlink’s popularity. Hundreds of thousands of customers have signed up for SpaceX’s satellite internet service, which can deliver high-speed broadband to rural areas stuck with poor broadband service. However, the system’s soaring popularity means that SpaceX’s network capacity is currently stretched in many areas across North America, resulting in slower speeds in cells already full of existing subscribers.
Ookla adds that the network congestion problems seem to be affecting Starlink users worldwide. “Starlink speeds decreased in every country we surveyed over the past year as more users sign up for service,” the company wrote.
Still, Starlink’s broadband quality in Europe remains significantly better than in North America. According to the report, most countries in Europe are experiencing median download speeds higher than 90Mbps or 100Mbps, which often outperforms fixed broadband providers.
Ookla’s report arrives when a growing number of users have been complaining about encountering slow speeds via Starlink, which is designed to offer residential subscribers download rates ranging from 50 to 200Mbps. In some cases, affected users enduring the congestion problem can experience their download speeds fall below 5Mbps.
Ookla’s data is also one reason why the FCC decided last month to deny SpaceX $886 million in federal funding for the satellite internet service.
“We observe that Ookla data reported as of July 31, 2022 indicate that Starlink’s speeds have been declining from the last quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022, including upload speeds that are falling well below 20Mbps,” the FCC said at the time. Other factors for the denial included Starlink’s “nascent” technology, its “recognized capacity constraints,” and concerns about the system’s cost to consumers.
SpaceX has appealed. “The decision should not be allowed to stand, leaving the people in these rural areas across our country behind yet again,” SpaceX told the FCC earlier this month.
Despite the slowdowns, Ookla says median download speeds over 60Mbps are still “more than enough for at least one connected device to do most everything on the internet including streaming video, downloading games, and chatting on video with friends and family.” Starlink speeds are faster than rival satellite internet providers Viasat and HughesNet, Ookla notes.
SpaceX hasn’t publicly commented on the congestion problems facing Starlink. However, the company has quietly acknowledged the speed slowdowns through its customer support channels. To address the congestion issues, SpaceX plans on launching thousands of more Starlink satellites into orbit to increase the broadband quality and the network capacity. But doing so will require approval from regulators.
Ookla is owned by PCMag parent company Ziff Davis.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.