Starlink vs Inmarsat: What are the Differences?

Deciding between Starlink vs Inmarsat can be challenging for some people. Both are satellite internet providers with the ability to offer global coverage.  However, these two providers are different more than they are similar. Inmarsat …

Big satellite dish telecommunication

Deciding between Starlink vs Inmarsat can be challenging for some people. Both are satellite internet providers with the ability to offer global coverage. 

However, these two providers are different more than they are similar.

Inmarsat is a British company established in 1979, while Starlink is a new invention by Elon Musk, SpaceX introduced in 2022.

 However, the differences go well beyond branding, ownership, and date of establishment. 

We are going to show you which provider will work best for you.

Inmarsat is popular among corporate users such as the military, civic, and marine. 

Starlink has far better coverage as you can access it anywhere you can have a clear view of the sky. Its main target is individuals in areas with poor internet services. 

These include remote areas such as the polar region and deserts, which other internet providers haven’t explored. 

Connectivity may not be fast in remote areas, but staying connected to the network is better than lacking it completely. 

Satellite antenna for receiving signals

Satellite antenna for receiving signals

External factors such as weather usually affect satellite performance. 

This is more common in satellites that orbit the Earth several miles away from the Earth than the ones in low orbit. 

The data usually moves from the Earth to the satellites, back to the network on Earth, then again to the satellite before the satellites transmit it to your dish and then your router. 

The further the satellites are above the Earth, the more likely the data will experience lag each way. 

Inmarsat satellites are around 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

 This distance is miles above the clouds too. Inmarsat is not ideal for those living in polar or cloudy regions, as clouds interfere with the signals. 

Starlink has its satellites moving in low earth orbit at around 550 KM. 

The reduced distance from the Earth limits the interference with the data by external factors such as weather and therefore ensures a stable connection. 

Apart from reduced distance, Starlink ensures better coverage and stable connection by launching several satellites into space. 

They already have more than 3,000 satellites in space, compared to 14 for Inmarsat. 

SpaceX plans to improve this number to 42,000 satellites to ensure global coverage. 

Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth

Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth

Inmarsat operates at a high frequency, capped at 1626.5 MHz. This is a lot of power, and it is advisable to use a basic log periodic antenna for a better signal.

 More power in space can interfere with other radio signals, so we recommend using 850-6500 MHz) frequency signals.

SpaceX has been authorized by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to offer broadband satellite internet services with Ku and Ka bands. 

The Ku band has a frequency range from 12 – 18 GHz, while the Ka-band offers a frequency between 27 – 40GHz. 

Starlink also uses V band frequency which ranges between 40 – 75 GHz and can dip into the K band and X band, which ranges 18-27GHz and 8-12GHz, respectively. 

Frequency usage varies depending on the movement of the signal, as shown in the table. We mentioned how data moves in the Starlink system until you receive it.

Data TransmissionFrequency (GHZ)
From Satellite to terminal10.7-12.7 and 37.5-42.5
From Terminal back to the Satellites14-14.5, 47.2 – 50.2 and 50.41- 51.4
From Stallites to gateway17.8 – 18.8, 18.8 – 19.3 and 37.5 – 42.5
From the gateway back to the SatelliteFrom the Terminal back to the Satellites

Latency is the distance between the receiver and satellites in space orbiting the Earth. 

This distance determines how fast you connect to the internet. 

The lower the latency, the faster you connect to the internet.

That said, you expect Starlink latency to be lower given that its satellite orbits the Earth at less than 600 Km from the surface. This gives it as low as 20-40 ms latency. 

Low latency is crucial for online activities such as video conferencing and gaming, which require real-time response. 

When ping is low, you will rarely notice delays and lags while enjoying your favorite game.

Inmarsat latency is a relatively high latency of around 900 ms. 

Though this is still enough to support demanding activities such as gaming, the experience is not as good as what you will get with Starlink. 

Inmarsat’s major clients are corporate companies. 

If you visit their websites, you realize they categorize their products as Government, aviation, Enterprise, and Maritime. 

This makes their products fairly expensive.

The price widely varies depending on the plans. Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro 2 Phone, one of the most popular and affordable plans, costs a little above $1,000. 

Starlink costs a little lower compared to most Inmarsat plans. 

After a one-time fee of around $599 for the equipment, you will pay a monthly fee of $110 for Residential and Roam plans. 

The business plan costs more, starting at monthly charges after $2,500 one-time fees for equipment. 

Starlink uses satellites in low Earth orbit which gives it lower latency and better speed than most satellites in the industry.

 Another provider that largely uses low Earth orbit, which we can see as Starlink’s biggest competitor, is OneWeb.

5G is faster than Starlink in areas where you can effectively access it.

 It promises up to 1Gbps, which is higher than the 50-350 that you can get from Starlink, depending on the plan. 

However, 5G speed widely varies depending on your location, congestion, and other factors. Most users report between 85-300 Mbps download speed. 

Inmarsat and Starlink are different in many ways, and therefore it is very easy to decide between the two. 

Though they offer the same services, they target different customers. 

Starlink is ideal for individuals, especially those living in remote areas. Inmarsat, on the other hand, caters to large organizations.