The following is an in-depth review and analysis of Starlink user experiences written on various online forums and social media websites to summarize how well the service is performing in Canada and who stands to benefit most from it.
Even in it’s beta-testing state, Starlink is much, much ‘better than nothing’ in Canada and provides considerably better speeds and latencies than its traditional satellite internet and LTE wireless internet competitors for a competitive price.
However, outages have been a challenge for some customers, so if having an internet connection at all times is vital (eg. working from home, home security, etc.), it is recommended that you have a backup (failover) ISP connection in place to handle this downtime.
- Ease of installation
- Ease of use
Even in it’s beta-testing state, Starlink is much, much ‘better than nothing’ in Canada and provides considerably better speeds and latencies than its traditional satellite internet and LTE wireless internet competitors for a competitive price.
- Unbelievably high upload and download speeds for rural areas
- Low latencies that allow for video calling and gaming
- No bandwidth cap (unlimited)
- Competitive pricing
- Some users experience regular connection drops due to system maintenance, coverage gaps
- Subject to weather-based performance reduction (eg. storms, snow, ice) like traditional satellite internet
- Can’t beat the performance and consistency of a cable or fibre connection
- Unclear as to how network will be managed in the future (eg. data caps, throttling and price increases)
|Price||$649, $65 for shipping|
|Download speed (Mbps)||50 to 150|
|Upload speed (Mbps)||15 to 20|
|Latency (ms)||20 to 40|
|Uptime||Poor to Good|
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a low earth orbit satellite internet service provider that is currently in limited public beta. It’s goal is to provide high-speed, low latency broadband internet access anywhere in the world using a network of 900 (and growing) low earth orbit satellites with plans to launch 12,000 in the next 5 years into the constellation (or network).
The satellites are launched by SpaceX and circle the earth in 53-degree inclined orbits which means their path does an arc-swing over the middle of Canada, spending more time and providing more coverage than in most other areas. They complete an orbit every 90 to 120 minutes.
You can track Starlink satellites live and see ground station locations here: satellitemap.space
The estimated cost of deploying the Starlink constellation of satellites is at least $10 billion USD. As of February 2021, Starlink has more than 10,000 subscribers.
How is it better?
The satellites used by existing internet services (Xplornet) orbit at 35,000 km above the earth, where latencies (round trip data time) are around 700 ms while Starlink’s low orbit constellation is only 550 km above the earth – over 60 times closer. At this altitude, it takes much less energy to launch them into orbit.
In addition to physical proximity, the signals are sent through the vacuum of space which is 47% faster than through the glass in fibre optic cable (300 million metres per second compared to 204 million) which allows for much lower latencies of 20 to 40 ms.
As additional, upgraded versions of satellites are added to the constellation and hundreds of them are repositioned to optimize coverage, the service will continue to improve.
Who is Starlink for?
The primary target market is Canadians living in rural and remote areas that have been consistently underserved by existing internet service providers across Canada and where internet access is unreliable or unavailable. The 41% of rural households who do not have access to 50/10 Mbps or better and the households who have “access” to those advertised speeds but in reality get low single-digits.
Some urban customers may be able to get the service, but since the system’s bandwidth is limited in each designated geographic area (or “cell”), they can’t accept too many customers in densely populated areas. The service is not intended to compete in areas with fibre internet and 5G.
How much does Starlink Canada cost?
In Canada, the cost of Starlink is $649 plus $65 shipping upfront for the hardware (total of $714 plus tax) and then $129 per month (no contract) for unlimited internet. The Starlink Kit includes all of the necessary hardware including dish, tripod, wifi router, power supply and cables.
For comparison, a traditional satellite internet provider such as Xplornet charges $100 to $120 per month for a 25/5 Mbps connection near Erin, ON (population of a little over 10,000) and while there is no cap, you must sign up for a 1 to 2 year term.
- $115/m for 25/1 Xplornet in Frederickton, NB
- $200/m for 25/5 Xplornet in northern MB
- $120/m 25/5 Xplornet outside of London, ON
In more remote areas such as southern Labrador the difference is even larger. For example, Bell is charging $120 per month for a DSL and the maximum you can receive is 6 down and 0.45 up.
Starlink availability and coverage in Canada
“Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”
So they appear to only be approving orders if a) you’re in an area with coverage and b) the area isn’t over-subscribed based on the current capabilities of their network. Approving too many would cause congestion and lower speeds.
Starlink can provide internet service in a very specific range: between 44.9 and 51.8 degrees latitude (Minneapolis to Saskatoon). At this time, orders have not been filled for customers in Newfoundlan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, PEI, Quebec or Yukon.
To find your latitude, lookup your location in Google Maps and right-click. The first number is your latitude.
|Alberta||49.0 – 51.5|
|British Columbia||48.4 – 51.7|
|Manitoba||49.0 – 51.1|
|New Brunswick||45.3 – 47.6|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||TBA|
|Nova Scotia||45.0 – 46.0|
|Ontario||43.1 – 51.0|
|Prince Edward Island||TBA|
|Saskatchewan||49.6 – 50.7|
The dish can be placed on the roof, ground or almost anywhere in-between, but requires a clear view of the northern sky. It has motors to self-orient to an optimal viewing angle. Once mounted, all you have to do is plug it in and point it at the sky.
Starlink’s Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) licence was approved by the CRTC on October 15, 2020. On November 6, 2020, they were given fixed-satellite services (FSS) regulatory approval.
The ‘better than nothing’ beta
“By design, the beta experience will be imperfect. Our goal is to incorporate feedback from a variety of users to ensure we build the best satellite broadband internet system possible.”
“When connected, your service quality will be high, but your connection will not be consistent. This means it may support streaming video with some buffering, but likely is not suitable for gaming or work purposes.”
How fast is Starlink internet?
Claim: Starlink provides internet speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps.
Starlink is indeed as fast as some of the fastest fibre internet plans offered by Canada’s major players Bell, Rogers and Telus. Typical reported download speeds range from 40 to 80 Mbps.
Typical reported upload speeds range from 15 to 20 Mbps.
There have been some reports of lower speeds 10 to 30 Mbps down and 1 to 5 Mpbs up in the late afternoon and evenings.
The satellites currently do not have the ability to communicate with each other. Instead, they send data back and forth to ground stations in order to connect to the internet’s fibre optic ‘backbone’ and send and receive data across the internet. Some cellular towers of some mobile service providers may also use Starlink’s system to connect to the core network.
SpaceX only has 1 ground station licensed in Canada located at Eastlink’s Duffy Place location in St. John’s, NL but it is for demonstration purposes only at this time.
Canadian users’ data is currently being routed through US ground stations in Maine, New York, Minnesota, Montana and Washington.
Getting approval for and getting ground stations online in Canada will help improve network performance and expand Starlink’s coverage area as terminals must be within 941 km of one.
Claim: Starlink’s latency will be 20 to 40 ms to start and drop to below 10 ms as more satellites are added to the network.
In addition to speed, latency is what Starlink has been able to deliver on, especially when compared to the 600 to 700 ms of latency inherent to traditional satellite internet services.
Claim: Starlink does not guarantee uptime.
The Starlink app’s statistics page lists 3 types of downtime: Obstructed, No Satellites and Beta:
What is obstructed downtime?
Any obstruction such as a tree, pole, etc. – anything that blocks the direct line of sight between the satellite and dish will cause full loss of connectivity. Obstructions to the North need to be at least 2.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the North of your install location extends 20 ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 50 ft away from your dish.
Obstructions to the East and West should be 1.5x away and to the South, 0.5x away. Some solve this issue by installing their own tower. Even a 2% obstruction can mean frequent, short connection drops.
Even with no obstructions detected by the system, multiple disconnects an hour have been reported, but most users report one hiccup or full disconnect every 1 to 3 hours. Some users have managed this downtime by keeping a backup internet service and installing a multi-WAN router to balance loads between the two connections.
What is no satellites downtime?
If ping success is 0%, no obstructions are registered and downtime is not “Scheduled,” the downtime is counted as “No Satellites” in the app, meaning there is no satellite in position to provide a signal. The dish knows when each satellite is due to be in view and will show a “Next satellite in XX Seconds” countdown.
What is beta downtime?
Connection loss due to “Scheduled” downtime. Starlink says beta downtime “will occur from time to time as the network matures” and is due to network adjustments, updates and maintenance.
Installing the Starlink Terminal (or ‘Dishy McFlatface’ as per the official installation guidelines) can be a straightforward DIY project – no contractor required. If you would rather not do it yourself and want a professional quality permanent installation, any contractor experienced with satellite TV, TV antenna or cell phone booster installation should be able to do it.
The dish is 11.6 lbs and about 19” in diameter. Its mast is 1.41″ outside diameter and has a 1/2″ hole about 2 inches up from the bottom of the pole. The 100 ft cable provided is hardwired into the dish for waterproofing purposes, but this can make running the cable challenging. The cable has a ferrite ring on it to reduce electromagnetic interference that’s 3/4” thick.
Use the app to find a place where it will have line of sight to the northern sky with no obstructions.
Plan a route for the 100 ft cable to enter your home. Here are a few options:
- Through an existing hole.
- If you have roof vents, go up the roof vent. Ensure water cannot travel down the wire into the vent. Only go upwards into the vent with the cable.
- Through the soffit into the attic. Ensure you protect the cable from the sharp soffit if metal.
- Travel down the wall to the nearest point you can go through an existing hole in the wall.
- Drill a hole in the wall.
Note: If you’re in an area with rodents or birds who might chew through the cable or damage the cable, consider running it through a conduit or cable channel/protector.
The quickest way to get up and running and can take a little as 5 minutes. Simply attach the dish to the tripod, place it down and connect the cable to the power supply and the power supply to the router. The dish will then self-orient to an optimal viewing angle and connect to the network.
If you’re in an area surrounded by trees, poles and other obstructions or that experiences inclement weather, you’ll probably want a more permanent location for your dish.
Roof mounting will take another 1 to 2 hours if youIf you live in an area with high winds, you may want the unit to be affixed to a structure. It involves drilling holes in your roof, so it should ideally be installed on an overhang in case of a leak
As per the Volcano Mount Guide, you’ll need a Volcano Roof Mount which is sold separately for $24 USD as well as a ½” socket wrench, 5/32” drill bit, stud finder and drill.
- Use a stud finder to find a stud (joist) on the roof.
- Place the mount over the stud and mark the 6 holes on the roof.
- Drill pilot holes into the marks.
- Place the sealing (mastic) tape over the holes.
- Place the mount over the holes and use the socket wrench to tighten lag bolts.
- Place the mast into the mount.
If you’re hesitant to drill holes in your roof, simply weighing down the unit might work.
As per the Ridgeline Mount Guide, the Ridgeline Roof Mount which is sold separately for $99 USD and 16 standard bricks or 4 concrete blocks.
- Place mat on ridgeline.
- Unlock mount and place over mat.
- Add 40 lbs. of ballast to each side.
- Place the mast into the center of the mount.
Pipe mount (J mount)
For a good combination of security and invasiveness it can be attached to a pipe or pole which is secured to the eaves, a deck railing or mounted to fascia.
With Starlink’s pipe adapter kit (sold separately for $24 USD) you can attach the dish to any pole up to 2.5” in diameter. If you do not have an existing pole to mount it on, you can use a satellite antenna mount such as the Winegard DS-2000 universal mount.
Running cable and connecting
Running the cable into your home will take another 1 to 2 hours.
- Route the other end of the cable into your home.
- Connect the cable to the power supply.
- Use wall clips to fasten the cable to the wall along its route.
- Connect the router to the power supply.
- Plug in the power supply.
- Wait up to 30 minutes for Starlink to self-adjust and connect to the internet.
- Connect to the Starlink’s wifi network using your phone, tablet or computer.
- The ferrite choke is ¾” in diameter, so conduit should be 1”
- Leave a drip loop
Ease of use
The Google Play and App Store apps provide step-by-step setup instructions including identifying an install location that has a clear view of the sky, checking for obstructions, verifying your wifi connection and troubleshooting connection issues. Both are rated over 4.2 stars.
Starlink comes with its own router that supports 802.11ac wifi 2.4GHz and 5GHz (up to 866.7 Mbps) on both for your home, but its functionality is limited. It does not support mesh networks so wifi extenders aren’t compatible. If you want to do more than just plug in, change your password and start using wifi, its recommended that you replace it with your own router. Doing so will mean you lose your stats in the app unless you play with the settings of your new router. The terminal will still receive updates.
There are a handful of troubleshooting posts written every day on the Starlink subreddit including not infrequent cases where the dish stopped working. In almost all of these cases the user reported that the issue was either resolved or the unit was replaced by Starlink.
What about snow and ice build up on the dish in winter?
Inclement weather including heavy rain, snow and ice build up can have an impact on performance leading to slower speeds and outages in extreme cases. Starlink should be installed in a location where snow will not build-up around it and obstruct its field of view.
The dish has a hydrophobic coating to allow water to shed off fast. The heat the dish generates while transmitting signals helps melt the snow off and was updated with a Snow Melt Mode in December 2020 to generate more heat than usual to minimize the impact of snow build-up. Icicles on the edge or underside should not have any significant impact.
If you live in an area that gets very heavy snowfall, you’ll want to install the dish within reach of a broom or roof rake just like for a traditional satellite dish.
There is no phone number for support. You must be a customer and have signed up for an account on their website or through the app to access their email and online ticketing system. You may also be able to get help with general and pre-sale questions from other owners on the Starlink Support subreddit.
Their response times depend on the nature and complexity of the issue. Most tickets receive a response within 2 to 3 days, but can take upwards of 1 week.
Cancellations and returns
The service is paid month-to-month (no contracts) and cancellation is easy and no hassle.
You can return your Starlink Kit within 30 days of shipment for a full refund of your hardware payment if you decide this service is not a good fit for you.
Compare Starlink to traditional satellite, LTE & DSL
Starlink vs. standard satellite internet
|Starlink Internet||Standard Satellite Internet|
|Avg. (actual) speed||75/15 Mbps||5/1 Mbps|
|Avg. latency||40 to 100 ms||600 ms|
|Uptime||Poor to Good||Poor to Average|
|Price/month||$129||$100 to $200|
Starlink vs. LTE data vs. DSL internet
|Avg. (actual) speed||75/15 Mbps||50/3 Mbps||6/1 Mbps|
|Avg. latency||40 to 100 ms||80 to 200 ms||50 to 100 ms|
|Uptime||Okay to Good||Good to Great||Great to Excellent|
|Cap||Unlimited||350 GB + $4/GB or throttled speed||Unlimited|
|Price/month||$129||$100 to $150||$80 to $100|
Popularity vs performance
A significant unknown about the future of Starlink is how SpaceX will manage its network – specifically how they will balance the number of subscribers accepted and overall capacity of the network.
They have not made any firm commitments regarding the use of data caps, speed throttling, network traffic shaping, cost increases and tier structures used by other ISPs to manage their networks and maximize profits.
For example, when other ISPs such as Xplornet and Bell first offered their fixed wireless LTE services, the quality of the service was great and was passed quickly via word of mouth. After many switched over to the new service, the towers became oversubscribed and performance dropped considerably.
Starlink LEO competitors
While no similar services are available in Canada yet, there are many other low earth orbit constellations in development and many more in the planning stages. The most notable are the following:
- OneWeb – 648 Gen 1 satellite fleet by end of 2022 with plans to start selling services in 2020 in Alaska. Plans of up to 1980 LEO and 2560 MEO Gen 3+ satellites total. Owned by UK Gov., Bharti Enterprises, SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems
- Kuiper – 3,236 satellites in LEO over the next 10 years at a cost of approximately $10 billion. Owned by Amazon.
Is Starlink right for you?
Best for those with 1 or no internet options and:
- Are paying an arm and a leg for single-digit Mbps satellite, LTE or DSL service.
- Want the freedom to work from home.
- Want to watch YouTube and Netflix without having to wait 5 minutes for buffering.
- Want to vote with your wallet against the incumbent providers.
- Want to be able to download large video game files quickly.
Not recommended for:
- Consumers in urban areas and cities.
- Individuals working from home who need near-perfect availability (VOIP calls).
- Properties that are covered with tall, dense forest.
- Competitive online gamers.
Can it replace my cell phone, be used on a vehicle (eg. RV) or boat or moved to a different address?
While the dish is small and portable, it cannot be used on-the-go or at a different location at this time. It must operate from a predetermined fixed location.
To communicate with the satellite, the antenna must maintain a narrow, direct line of sight beam to it from a specific area on the ground (or “cell”) that is assigned to your dish on a set schedule. The signal frequency it transmits on does not penetrate walls or roofs.
If the unit is moved outside of its designated cell, it will not be on the schedule to receive internet and therefore won’t work.
Is Starlink good for streaming video (YouTube, Netflix)?
Yes. YouTube recommends bandwidth of 1 to 10 Mbps to stream 1080p video. They buffer well ahead of the viewer, so latency and short connection drops are not really a concern.
Yes. Netflix recommends bandwidth of 0.5 to 25 Mbps to stream in HD. They buffer well ahead of the viewer, so latency and short connection drops are not really a concern.
Is Starlink good for gaming?
At times and mostly for casual gamers. For online gaming, a latency (or ping) of 100 ms or less is considered acceptable for gaming, but the lower the better which based on reports should be attainable for most users.
Online games actually use very little bandwidth (100 to 300 MB per hour), so it is unlikely that speeds will be an issue.
However, the intermittent unexpected connection losses of even 10 to 15 seconds can be frustrating and enough to disconnect you from your game – especially in the case of trying to play competitive online games like COD: Warzone, Apex Legends or League of Legends. It may be stable for days at a time, but it can change in an instant. For the time being, it is probably best to stick to playing casual online games.
Is Starlink good for video calls (Zoom, Meet)?
At times. Zoom and Meet recommend that bandwidth should be around 1 to 3 mbps for 2 callers and 2 to 4 mbps for group calls. Latency should be less than 100 ms and ideally 50 ms. Starlink is able to meet these requirements, but as above, momentary connection drops may cause jitteriness and those longer than a few seconds may cut the call off entirely.
What are the concerns about Starlink’s constellation?
Low earth orbit (LEO) satellites only have a small field of view to the surface of the earth, so a large network (constellation) is required to provide continuous coverage. They also fall out of orbit slowly due to atmospheric drag and must be deorbited (reentering earth’s atmosphere) and replaced with new units.
Space debris can be a hazard to satellites and spacecraft.
Starlink satellites have ion thrusters powered by their solar panels to maneuver in space and deorbit at the end of their lives – which are designed to be shorter so that they can still be maneuvered before the point of failure. To deorbit, they use their thrusters to slowly lower their orbit until they are broken up and destroyed by the heat of reentry, keeping debris out of space.
However, about 3% of Starlink satellites have failed so far meaning they are not responding and cannot be maneuvered. These are expected to deorbit naturally within 5 years, but pose a small collision risk in the meantime. They are travelling at 28,080 km/h (7800 m/s) and if they collide with another object would cause a catastrophic breakup and the resulting debris could cascade into other collisions (Kessler syndrome).
The FCC’s rules regarding mitigation of orbital debris were updated April 2020 for the first time in 15 years to require satellite operators to disclose exactly how and to what extent each craft is uniquely identifiable, trackable and controllable and how they plan to share adjustments and maneuvers with spacecraft tracking authorities.
All satellites in orbit above the International Space Station (includes Starlink’s) must be equipped to perform collision avoidance maneuvers. They also have to estimate the likelihood of collision with large and small objects, the possibility that the satellite will fail and what risk that creates for anyone on the surface.
Debris falling to earth
Satellites being deorbited pose a risk to people on the ground.
In December 2018, NASA’s Debris Assessment Software found that once the entire constellation was in orbit, there would be a 45% chance that one of the satellites would injure or kill someone about every 6 years.
In March 2019, SpaceX stated that the majority of its satellites will no longer contain dense metallic components that could survive reentry and endanger people on the ground and “No components of…the satellite will survive atmospheric reentry, reducing casualty risk to zero,”
“The components of each satellite are fully demisable and are expected to quickly burn up in the earth’s atmosphere – a measure that exceeds all current safety standards.”
Light pollution and radio frequency interference (RFI)
Astronomers have also raised concerns about the constellation interfering with ground-based astronomy as the satellites will outnumber visible stars and that their brightness in both optical and radio wavelengths will severely impact scientific observations.
According to SpaceX, satellites will be visible at sunrise and sunset for a fraction of starlink’s 90 minute orbit and they’re experimenting on how to make them less bright.
To pre-order, go to Starlink.com.
Replaced our Xplornet
We live in a rural area with only dial-up or satellite internet available. We had Xplornet for about 2 years and were promised 10Mbps download. In reality, we got much less, particularly in the evenings when everybody was trying to stream. It was frustrating. About 6 weeks ago, we got our Starlink kit. It was very easy to set up with the only very minor issue being the diameter of holes need to pass cables through walls (7/8″ drill required). Speeds are phenomenal. Today for example, it is 150 down, 17 up and 19ms latency. There are occasional blackouts, but so far they have only last for seconds or minutes. I work from home and have frequent video calls. Only one of perhaps 15 or 20 calls had a significant interruption (about 30 seconds). Starlink has changed our rural lives for the better!
Leave a review
If you have a Starlink we’re interested to know your thoughts. How long have you been with them and what do you think about their fees, rates and customer service? Let us know by leaving a review below!
- Starlink Subreddit
- Why SpaceX is Making Starlink – RealEngineering (video)
- How Will Elon Musk’s Starlink Deliver Internet Around the Globe? (video)
- Starlink Mission (video)
Over to you
Are you considering getting Starlink? Do you live in an area with poor/no internet? Who is your current provider and what kind of service do you get? Let us know by leaving a comment below!