How Fast is Fast?

Starlink is touting 120Mb/sec on its downlinks from its growing constellation of satellites purpose-built and -orbited to provide Internet connections.

Other satellite Internet providers in the offing are claiming similar speeds.

Put the speeds in context, though.

My Ethernet Internet connection gets link speeds in the gigabit/sec range.

My cable Internet provider gets me downlink speeds in the low hundreds of Mb/sec (faster than Starlink’s present 120Mb/Sec).

Consider another aspect of a satellite constellation network. Surface-based Internet connections (which cable connections are, for all that some of them still use microwave connections rather than underground copper (less obsolete than microwave) or glass to send their signals over much shorter distances than can satellites—which must bring the signal up from its ground-based origin, run it along that longer orbital arc, and then back down to the surface-based destination.

The throughput in any leg of that distance may well be lightning fast—which 120MB/sec is, for all that gigabit/sec is faster. But to all of that must be added the physics-created latencies—because the signal only goes at the speed of light—with further latencies created by each relay required as the signal is pushed from satellite to satellite before being relayed to the ground.

For all that negativity, though, a satellite-based Internet connection is fast, fast enough for consumer needs (so far) and for most business needs (so far), and it’s infinitely faster for those users in locations not reached by any other Internet network.

The follow-on question is whether a satellite-based Internet network can evolve as those “so fars” evolve.

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