With there being so many internet service providers, many customers find themselves making comparisons such as Starlink vs Fiber.
Satellite-based internet has a reputation for high latency and low speeds.
However, SpaceX’s Starlink has seemingly changed this. But how does it compare to fiber? Can it outperform in both the speed and price categories?
The following guide hopes to answer these questions and more.
What is Starlink and How Does it Work?
Starlink is SpaceX’s first commercial product. It consists of a constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. These satellites are smaller than traditional satellites, which makes them easier to launch.
Rural areas are Starlink’s key demographic. However, anyone can sign up for Starlink as long as they have coverage in their area.
SpaceX introduced Starlink to fund its other space exploration projects. Starlink ultimately has the potential to become the foundation for SpaceX’s multiplanetary network.
Starlink satellite base
What is Fiber and How Does it Work
Fiber refers to a broadband internet connection that is delivered through fiber optic cables. Currently, this is considered the best and most reliable way to connect to the internet.
Fiber can achieve consistent gigabit speeds. They achieve these speeds through tiny glass fibers that transfer data through light.
Fiber has become cable internet’s successor because of its ability to simultaneously carry and transfer multiple signals.
In addition to speed and reliability, there are a plethora of options when it comes to fiber-based internet service providers (ISPs).
For instance, if you live in a US city, you have access to Xfinity, Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T, etc.
Starlink is currently the only LEO-based satellite internet provider. Although companies like Amazon’s Project Kuiper have plans to expand into this market.
Albeit, fiber’s greatest weakness is that it isn’t available in rural areas and some coastal cities. It’s also more expensive than previous cable-based alternatives. Again, SpaceX introduced Starlink to fill this gap.
Image of fiber optic cable with lights
Starlink vs Fiber: Side By Side Comparison
This section provides a side-by-side comparison of these technologies. The first will be coverage.
Coverage refers to the areas in which these technologies are available. Let’s take a look at fiber first.
The truth is without fiber, we wouldn’t have the World Wide Web. Fiber optic-based undersea cables and trunk cables that connect to internet exchange points are what make modern internet connections possible.
Even if you’re using a mobile network, DSL, or even satellite to connect, you’re using fiber optic in some way, too. With that being said, it’s very hard to ascertain how much of the world has direct fiber access.
Fiber is available globally. Some countries have more fiber availability than others.
For instance, a 2016 study found that 97% of houses in Japan had access to full fiber compared to only 2% of households in Nigeria.
Each country has its own distributors, installers, and service providers. So it can be a little difficult to ascertain the exact statistics.
Regardless of its near ubiquity, there are still areas without it.
Installing fiber optic cables is expensive. As such, it’s not financially feasible to install it in areas with relatively low populations. Fiber thrives in cities and suburbs.
City Connected to The Internet Through Fiber
At the time of writing this guide, Starlink was available in over 60 countries. Because of Starlink’s extensive coverage, it was also accessible from the sea and non-supported countries through its roaming features.
Because Starlink is wireless, it doesn’t face many of the limitations of cable-based internet.
However, as Starlink’s LEO constellation continues to grow, so will its coverage.
Performance refers to speed and latency. Essentially, you can use the information in this section to determine which technology or service is more reliable.
As previously mentioned, fiber can deliver gigabit speeds. AT&T offers one of the fastest plans available to US consumers.
It can reach speeds of 5Gbps with latencies sitting between 0 and 10 ms.
Furthermore, fiber is reliable. It is not affected by weather. It’s ideal for gamers, streamers, data scientists, etc.
Technology, Earth, Globe all Connected Through Fiber
While Starlink has the capacity and potential to cover more areas than Fiber, it will never be as reliable.
Satellite internet – even LEO satellite internet – has always been at the mercy of the weather.
It can decrease your speeds, increase latency, and/or completely interrupt your service. On a good day, your Starlink’s speed will depend on your package.
Starlink’s standard fixed package has maximum download speeds of up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10 Mbps. Its ping times can get as low as 25 m s.
On the other hand, its priority package will afford you download speeds up to 220 Mbps, and upload speeds up to 25 Mbps.
Its latency is similar to the standard package (25 m s). Starlink also offers two mobile packages.
The first is a standard package that can achieve maximum download speeds of 50 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10 Mbps. The priority package can give you maximum speeds of 220 Mbps and upload speeds of 25 Mbps.
Both packages deliver varying latency based on the area you’re in. Nevertheless, the latency should exceed 99 m s.
Internet Starlink Satellite Near the Earth
Cost is another important factor in determining which technology or service is the right fit for you.
Since fiber refers to a technology or mechanism of delivery, comparing it to Starlink cost-wise is a bit tricky. Nevertheless, this section will attempt to do this.
Since AT&T is the largest telecommunications company and the third-largest ISP in the world, we’ll use it for comparison.
At the time of writing this guide, AT&T’s least expensive option was its 300 Mbps package. It cost $55 per month.
On the other hand, its premium offering (5 Gbps) was priced at $250.00. These prices were not inclusive of equipment and installation fees.
Starlink’s packages are less performance-centric and more purpose-driven. It charges the following fees:
- Starlink Residential (Fixed): Charges $120 per month for a subscription and a $599 one-time payment for equipment fees.
- Starlink Business (Fixed Priority): Charges a $250 monthly subscription fee. The equipment costs as much as $2,500.
- Starlink Roam (Standard Mobile): Charges a $150 monthly subscription fee. Equipment can cost you between $599 and 2500, depending on your needs.
- Starlink Mobility (Mobile Priority): Charges a $250 monthly subscription fee and a one-time equipment fee of $2500.
Once again, fiber wins in this department. AT&T also offers supplementary wireless services with its fiber plans. These are optional.
Little Girl Working on Her Laptop
In the above text, we explored Starlink vs Fiber. While fiber outperforms Starlink by a landslide in raw data transmissions, Starlink has far more flexible options.
You can pick between a fixed line or a mobile solution (or both).
Furthermore, Starlink as a single service is available in more areas of the globe than any ISP offering fiber in America.