Does Starlink Internet Have Data Caps?

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With Starlink gaining more customers, the question about Starlink data limits and data caps has become a common concern. When most people think of data caps, they think about mobile data plans which would throttle their mobile internet speed until the new month comes around. Needless to day, having an internet service provider that limits your bandwidth is not something that most customers will want. But unlike mobile data plans, it’s a lot more difficult for customers to shop around for home internet services.

If you are considering Starlink internet, chances are you already have very few home internet options, so simply picking the one without data caps is not a feasible solution. In this article we will explain data caps, examine how common they are, and tell you whether you can expect them with Starlink satellite internet.

No, Starlink does not have any data caps or data limits in place for their customers, on any of the service levels. Starlink does acknowledge their right to change this at any time. They also mention that they can use techniques like throttling to protect their network performance. This is largely just legal stuff, but the bottom line is that Starlink doesn’t cap data but they could potentially limit or throttle excessive bandwidth for customers in times of network congestion:

Stated speeds and uninterrupted use of Services are not guaranteed. Actual speeds will likely be lower than the maximum speeds during times of high usage. Starlink may temporarily reduce speeds if our network is congested.

Starlink.com specifications page

Does Starlink offer unlimited data?

Yes, Starlink data is unlimited, which allows you to download and upload as much as you want. This applies to all of their service tiers. Since Starlink doesn’t impose any type of data limits, that means you never have to worry about how much data you use.

What are data caps?

Every internet service provider will have their own definition of what a data cap is, usually explained in your service agreement that you sign when you activate your service. Generally, a data cap (or data limit) is a pre-defined amount of data bandwidth that you can use before suffering performance throttling.

Data caps exist to prevent customers from hogging too much bandwidth. On a network with limited capacity, bandwidth hogs can degrade the experience of other customers. You’ll usually find these limits on older network systems, like 3G and 4G wireless. Fixed broadband internet provides don’t usually have data limits because their network infrastructure is more scalable and powerful.

What is data throttling?

Data throttling is a technique that internet service providers use to limit the speed of customers in certain situations. In the context of this article, throttling is usually employed by the provider when a customer reaches their monthly data cap. Another situation where throttling comes into play is if the network is congested with a lot of users. Users with a lower data priority can have their speeds slowed in order to give more performance to other customers.

Internet download and upload speeds for that customer will be reduced so that they cannot continue to use up bandwidth at the rate they were before. Typically, internet service provides who don’t have data caps will use throttling to help control network performance. So even though you might not have a limit on the amount of data you can download or upload, performance may suffer if the network is busy.

Related Article: Starlink Internet Speeds

Typical Data Caps

In our research, we found that for most terrestrial broadband services with data caps, 1TB is the most common limit. Satellite internet service providers, such as HughesNet and Viasat, have much more restrictive data caps. These traditional satellite services limit customers anywhere from 10-150GB depending on your plan and location.

1TB is a lot of downloading or streaming, and most customers will never approach that amount. But the more restrictive limits from other satellite internet service providers can be a real concern for potential customers. Customers who are considering Starlink as their internet provider may be weary about data caps if they come from HughesNet or another satellite provider because of their history with restrictive data caps.

Will I even notice a data cap?

Whether or not you will be affected by a data cap is determined by your typical monthly internet usage. 10-15 years ago the average customer didn’t use much data. Browsing websites and checking emails didn’t use a lot of bandwidth. But it is 2022, where most people have streaming services and social media accounts which download a lot of video content. Video content is large compared to web pages or images, so our data usage as a society has increased as a result.

If we consider a data cap of 1TB, an individual customer will probably not notice that data cap with typical usage. If you have multiple people in a household, that is where a data cap may come into play. Multiple people using streaming services will use a lot of data, and you may hit that 1TB limit quickly. If you have a more restrictive data cap, such as with Viasat, even a single person might hit the data cap each month just by using streaming services.

Because of the way we use internet in 2022, data caps are a real concern. If you have the choice, we recommend staying away from any internet providers that impose data limits. This isn’t always practical depending on your location. So if you must accept a plan with a data cap, make sure to consider your data usage.

We can only speculate on how Starlink will manage network bandwidth in the future. Many internet service providers are ditching data caps because of the change in how customers are using their internet services. With TV streaming, online gaming, and social media becoming a major part of internet usage, many companies have realized that customers will not accept data limits. Starlink is a new service and the decision to not have data caps is most likely driven by the need to compete with other satellite internet services and even fixed broadband in some areas.

In our opinion, Starlink will remain without data caps or limits for the time being. The service is still expanding and competing for customers. From a business perspective, it doesn’t make much sense to impose a data cap. It is possible that after a number of years, Starlink will determine that limits or throttling is required to manage bandwidth. Their legal policies give them this right. But again, that is just speculation at this point. Still, it is important to consider before signing up.

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Joe Huber
Joe Huber
23 days ago

My SL in rural California went from a variable 50-100 Mbps down and 8-20 Mbps up to now a consistent 20 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up. I get these speeds consistently no matter the time of day including early on Sunday morning. So it seems to me SL has started throttling my traffic for some reason. We are a very light user and not even at that home very often so I think it’s unlikely a usage based response. Maybe they’re just scrambling to reduce congestion and protect a minimal service level for everyone.

Tim L
Tim L
2 months ago

I expected a drop in bandwidth at some point. but almost a year in and I went from 300-400 megs to 3 megs. I can barely load my email. THIS is what the increase in price provides?

mark
mark
4 months ago

“In our opinion, Starlink will remain with data caps or limits for the time being.”

I think you meant without data caps or limits