Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” testers have reported speeds of nearly 210 Mbps in good weather and some have reported that they can get 175 Mbps in winter weather conditions that can be hard on electronics. SpaceX’s Starlink currently has nearly 900 satellites in orbit out of a planned constellation of up to 42,000 satellites that will be able to deliver high-speed Internet service for nearly the entire planet when fully deployed.
The information was shared in Reddit’s Starlink community. One beta tester in New York said he could get 209.17 Mbps. Another said he did a download speed test that got 215 Mbps. For reference, speed test service Ookla says that one reported download speed of 161.35 Mbps and upload speed of 23.23 Mbps is faster than 95% of households get. Results can vary, of course; Reddit members have compiled a chart that shows a variety of results on Speedtest.net.
Some beta testers reported that they got good results even in frigid and snowy conditions that would normally be difficult on the hardware that makes it possible to get a signal from orbit. They reported speeds of up to 175 Mbps even when their terminals should have been covered with snow and were exposed to high winds. One of them even survived a leaf blower that could blow air at up to 175 miles per hour.
Some Redditors did post pictures of their terminals and screenshots of their speed test results, saying things like, “First heavy snow, no problem,” and “Dishy is handling a snowstorm pretty well.” Those posters saw speeds of 150 Mbps and 133 Mbps, respectively.
The connection only began to slow down when the snow got especially heavy. One user reported, “I’ve still been averaging around 100 [Mbps] download and 15 [Mbps] upload,” when a snowstorm dumped three inches of snow on their terminal.
The better performance in snowy weather is apparently made possible by a recent software update that includes a “Snow Melt Mode”. This mode can help keep the hardware warm enough to function even when it gets snowed on. This allows the hardware to function in its promised temperature range of -30 to +40 degrees Celsius. SpaceX plans to refine the Snow Melt Mode in future software updates.
Snow Melt Mode in Action
Users generally agreed that, even with the snow and incomplete constellation, Starlink’s beta test showed that it could genuinely be “better than nothing.” Traditional Internet service providers often do not invest heavily in regions that are sparsely populated or have a low median income. Even when they do, the service is often high priced and slow.
Starlink has already been praised for its potential to close the “digital divide” for people who have lacked reliable Internet access. Besides the official beta testing, Starlink is also working with local communities to bring Internet access to Native American tribes like Washington State’s Hoh Tribe and low-income students in a Texas school district.
“It’s going to be a dream for those folks in the middle of nowhere that don’t currently have any options,” said one user.
Even with their better performance in poor weather, Starlink engineers said that the terminals could be damaged by severe weather events like tropical storms and tornadoes. In a recent Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” they advised bringing the terminals in if their owners were concerned about weather damage.