Launched in 2021, Starlink satellite internet has been able to deliver broadband internet to people in areas where no other options exist. Fiber infrastructure has also been expanding in recent years, thanks to federal funding initiatives.
Starlink is satellite internet, which works by sending signals from a dish on your home to satellites in low earth orbit. The satellites communicate with ground stations, which are hardwired into the internet. Fiber is the more traditional connection method, where fiber optic cable is run from your home to a local ISP. With Starlink, the connection from your home is wireless. With fiber, you have a direct cable connection to the internet.
If you have the choice between fiber and Starlink, or you are just wondering whether Starlink is as fast as fiber, this article will break down the details. I will cover maximum speed capabilities, latency, cost, and reliability. Finally, I will recommend which one is a better choice if both are available at your home.
Starlink vs Fiber – Which is faster?
At 1000 mbps and above, Fiber is much faster than Starlink, which has a maximum speed specification of 220 mbps. The potential speed of Starlink is lower than fiber because they are two different internet technologies. With Starlink, data must be transmitted from your house, to a satellite, and then back down to earth. There is a lot of energy and bandwidth issues with this method. Fiber, on the other hand, uses a direct cable connection, where throughput and power limitations aren’t as much of a concern.
Fiber has lower latency and ping times than Starlink, which is better. Like with speed, the technology used to transmit data is the reason behind the higher latency of Starlink. The average latency of fiber is 14 ms, compared to 48 ms for Starlink. I will stress, however, that Starlink latency is very impressive for satellite internet. If you compare it with HughesNet and Viasat, it’s not even close. Both the other satellite internet companies have latency numbers above 600 ms.
Starlink costs more than fiber, both up-front for equipment, and monthly. The cost of fiber internet varies by region and service provider, but generally $70/month is the average cost. Starlink costs $110/month for the standard Residential plan. You will also pay a one-time equipment fee of $599.
Due to fiber internet’s direct cable connection, it tends to be much more reliable than Starlink. Since Starlink is satellite internet, it can be affected by weather such as snow, rain, and ice. Starlink’s satellite network is also relatively new, and there are short outages from time to time that the customer has no control over. Fiber isn’t 100% reliable either, but it mainly depends on the ISP and your local cable infrascuture.
Starlink easily wins the battle of availability since it is a global satellite network. One of the primary reasons that Starlink was developed in the first place is the lack of broadband infrastructure globally. In many parts of the US, fiber and other internet simply isn’t available. Starlink was developed to provide internet access to those underserved areas. Starlink can serve places that fiber isn’t run yet, or may never be run.
Starlink isn’t as fast as fiber, but it still reaches broadband speeds according to the FCC. Fiber can be 4-5x faster vs Starlink, with a lower monthly cost, and better reliability. Latency is also lower. The downside of fiber is that it isn’t available in many places in the US, especially in rural areas.
If you have the choice between fiber and Starlink, I would recommend fiber due to the higher potential speeds and lower cost. If fiber isn’t available, Starlink is a great choice over traditional satellite internet providers.