More Starlink users mean slower speeds: Ookla

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“Some speeds have shown signs of slowing down from their initial launches,” Ookla says of Starlink service

Starlink’s commercial success is causing network slowdowns, benchmarking company Ookla concludes in new analysis, as new customers result in a heavier network load and slower speeds for the Low-Earth Orbit-based internet service, compared to its performance a year ago.

“Starlink speeds decreased in every country we surveyed over the past year as more users sign up for service,” Ookla said. It looked at Starlink performance in Europe, Oceania, North America and South America, including eight additional countries and “expanded data” compared to its previous looks at satellite internet providers’ services.

The drop in median download speed was between 9% to 54% when comparing performance from the second quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022. That was reflected in Starlink service in Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S., Ookla reported. Uplink speeds were also slower, while latency was mostly flat. (Read Ookla’s analysis here.)

However, it noted, “Starlink still reached a median download speed of at least 60 Mbps in North America during Q2 2022, which is 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. … For most users, we still suspect these dips are still worthwhile for areas that have no service, slow service, or few affordable options for fast internet.”

It’s also worth noting that the roughly 62 Mbps-mark that Starlink is providing as a median download speed in the U.S. is nearly three times faster than its closest tested U.S. competitor (Viasat at around 23.68 Mbps). Starlink’s median speeds were better (sometimes much better) outside the continental U.S.; it had median download speeds of 112 Mbps in Puerto Rico, 80 Mbps in Mexico and nearly 76 Mbps in Canada. Ookla also noted that Starlink outperformed the fixed broadband average for download speeds in 16 European countries.

The most recent testing could come into play as Starlink appeals the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to deny the company nearly $900 million in funding via the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to connect unconnected households across the U.S. The FCC had said that during the post-auction review process, it concluded that Starlink’s application “failed to demonstrate that [Starlink] could deliver the promised service.” Starlink would have been obligated to provide speeds of 100/20 Mbps, but not for several years.

Previous testing by Ookla had found that Starlink achieved a median download speed of 100 Mbps in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2021. But by the first quarter of 2022, that was down to around 91 Mbps, while upload speeds saw a year-over-year decline of 33% compared to the first quarter of 2021. Starlink performance also “[varies] widely at the county level,” Ookla has found: “Widely”, meaning a 130-Mbps difference between the fastest and slowest median speeds was found during testing in late 2021.