The following article compares Starlink vs. LTE. Starlink is currently the fastest satellite internet provider on the market.
It seems it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Starlink gives people who live in rural areas an opportunity to have a stable internet connection.
However, you must note that despite not having access to most wired broadband internet (i.e., fiber), satellite internet wasn’t and isn’t the only option.
Cellular broadband has always been one of the best options.
But how does Starlink’s satellite internet compare to the most widely available fixed-access cellular internet?
This is the question this article will explore.
Table of Contents
- What is Starlink?
- What is LTE?
- Starlink vs. LTE: How to Choose
- Starlink vs. LTE – FAQ
- Starlink vs. LTE – Conclusion
What is Starlink?
Starlink describes SpaceX’s satellite division and the satellite internet technology it has developed. The company first announced Starlink in 2015.
Its goal was to provide a fast, low-latency global satellite internet service that we’d never seen before. It succeeded.
Spacex accomplished this feat using a large collection of small low-orbit satellites collectively known as satellite constellations.
The redundancy of these low earth orbit (LEO) satellites allows Starlink to provide faster internet speeds to more devices around the Earth.
SpaceX plans to use Starlink’s revenue to fund its ambitions to colonize Mars.
However, Starlink is just one of many technologies SpaceX will use for its Mars expeditions.
Another example is SpaceX’s reusable rocket technology which it uses to launch new Starlink satellites.
The company also plans to use a Starlink-like satellite constellation for Mars.
Starlink comes in a few subscription plans and packages. This guide will mainly focus on the residential plan.
[Global Satellite Internet]
What is LTE?
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. It’s a mobile/cellular broadband communication standard that would be the successor to the GSM and UMTS standard (and 4G’s predecessor).
Originally, people regarded (and marketed) basic LTE as the 4th Generation (4th) of mobile phone communications. We could only regard Advanced LTE as true 4G.
There are four types of LTE:
- LTE (3.9G)
- LTE Advanced (LTE+/LTE-A – 4.5G)
- LTE Advanced Pro (LTE-A Pro – 4.9G/Pre-5G)
In addition to LTE, IMT Advanced was also a candidate for 4G/4.5G. Compared to 5G, 4G still has the most subscribers and global coverage.
While 5G is the latest generation and it’s faster, it doesn’t have the range of LTE.
Thus, 4G (LTE and LTE+) is the best mobile broadband alternative to Starlink’s satellite internet.
One of the biggest advantages that LTE has over LEO satellite constellation-based internet is variety.
Consumers can pick from a long list of LTE mobile carriers, whereas there is only one Starlink. But this isn’t the only difference. Let’s look at a few others.
[4G Network Towers]
Starlink vs. LTE: How to Choose
This section will compare Starlink to the average performance of fixed-access LTE.
Depending on your region and subscription plan, Starlink has the capacity to deliver up to 150Mbps of download speed and 20Mbps of upload speed.
The service also promises low latency ranges between 25ms and 50ms.
Fixed LTE has a similar latency range that sits between 20ms and 50ms.
This depends on factors such as distance from the closest cell towers, network congestion and signal strength.
On average, fixed-access LTE broadband has the potential to deliver download speeds of up to 300Mbps.
It can also offer upload speeds of as much as 45 Mbps, depending on your mobile carrier/ISP.
Some sources have maintained that LTE Advanced Pro’s highest download speeds can reach 3Gbps.
However, this depends on your network and your equipment.
In addition to location and other factors, Starlink’s reliability highly depends on the weather.
On the other hand, while LTE Advanced Pro may experience SOME performance dips during stormy weather, it isn’t as apparent as Starlink’s.
Starlink is an expensive prospect. When writing this article, there were 5 packages, with the residential package being the cheapest.
The residential plan is Starlink’s standard offering for the everyday consumer.
It can cost you up to $120, depending on whether you purchase the equipment upfront or pay for it as part of your subscription payment plan.
Starlink charges an upfront fee of $599 for its hardware. The company also features a Business, Mobile (Roaming), and Maritime plan.
The cost of fixed access LTE differs from provider to provider.
For instance, AT&T’s fixed-access wireless rural plan costs $50 monthly and delivers speeds up to 10Mbps.
An LTE receiver can cost you as much as $200 on average.
While it’s more expensive than standard fixed wired access internet, it’s still substantially cheaper than Starlink.
[LTE WI-Fi Router]
Starlin’s residential plan is easy enough to install and configure without the aid of a professional.
SpaceX has included a set of guides and videos on their website to make it even easier for you.
But if you decide to apply for the Business and Roaming Plan, the installation will require the expertise of a certified professional.
This may cost you an additional $99.
One of LTE’s greatest strengths is that it requires very little equipment.
Furthermore, many of LTE’s carrier modems and Wi-Fi routers are pre-configured.
Thus, customers can simply plug them in and connect.
Starlink covers most major parts of America. It also covers parts of Europe, Northern Africa, Japan, Australia and South America.
With Starlink constantly launching new satellites, its coverage will only expand. You can follow the progress of Starlink’s availability using its coverage map.
LTE is available globally. It’s one of the most ubiquitous ways to connect to the internet, make phone calls and send messages. Again, LTE wins in this department too.
[Vector Map of Planet]
Starlink vs. LTE – FAQ
Is Starlink unlimited data?
Starlink has unlimited data. SpaceX shelved plans to charge users who exceed 1TB of monthly data usage.
According to Starlink’s fair use policy, it does somewhat throttle internet speeds when you exceed the limits of your particular plan. However, this isn’t technically a cap.
Thus, Starlink’s claim to offer unlimited data is true.
Does Starlink come with a router?
SpaceX packages its residential plan’s equipment in a kit. The Starlink Kit features a flat satellite dish, WiFi router, power supply and all the necessary cables.
How many devices can use Starlink at once?
Starlink’s standard router can support up to 128 devices. The business plan can potentially connect up to 200 devices or more.
Starlink vs. LTE – Conclusion
The above guide explores Starlink vs. LTE.
Starlink has huge potential but a substantial waiting list, cost and lack of coverage may dissuade many customers from registering.
Although fixed LTE may not be able to deliver some of the speeds that Starlink is touting, it’s still the best alternative.
Especially for those in rural areas where fixed wired internet is not available.