This report summarizes my experiences using Starlink satellite internet at my home in Germany for three months in 2023. I replaced my high-speed internet DSL from Deutsche Telekom successfully. In summary, I am surprised positively and thrilled about Starlink. This blog post explores my experiences with Starlink for work and leisure, including the order and installation, pricing trade-offs, and the pros and cons of satellite network quality.
My Daily (Internet) Life
To understand when satellite internet via Starlink works or does not work for me, it is important to understand my internet usage. The following describes my daily internet requirements:
- I work a lot in my home office in the software industry. I do many video conferences, large downloads, and other stuff requires a fast and stable internet connection with good latency is mandatory for my work.
- I upload recorded HD videos from my video studio ~ once a week (50+ GB per video).
- I stream TV shows and watch sports with a passionate multi-screen setup on most weekends.
- Gaming is a regular hobby. I don’t play hardcore Esports or competitive stuff like Counterstrike or League of Legends. I don’t require super low and stable latency.
And that’s just my internet life. The three other people in my house also need the internet all day long, even though it is mainly for web browsing, messaging, and watching TV shows.
Before I take a deeper look at Starlink, I want to explore why I actually considered using it.
Status Quo – Why do I need Starlink?
You might think that Germany is modern enough to provide good internet to everyone. Wrong! Still, at least in theory, I have the following options in my village:
- DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): DSL is a widely available broadband connection using existing telephone lines. Speeds can vary based on the distance from the telephone exchange. Deutsche Telekom is the only (serious) option.
- Fiber Optic (FTTH/FTTB): Fiber-optic internet delivers high-speed internet through thin glass or plastic cables. It provides faster and more reliable connections but is not as widely available as DSL or cable. Deutsche Glasfaser will provide fiber in my village, but it is still in construction.
- LTE (Long-Term Evolution) or 4G/5G: Mobile networks provide high-speed internet access through LTE, 4G, or 5G technologies. This is an option for areas with good mobile network coverage. Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica provide (bad) mobile networks for phone and internet in my region.
- Satellite Internet: Satellite internet is an option in areas where other types of broadband are not available. It involves a satellite dish to connect to the internet, but it may have limitations in terms of speed and latency. Starlink is the obvious and best option.
I (have to) use Starlink in two scenarios: My current house because of the limitations of limited download speed of my DSL, and in my new house where no (!) high-speed internet is available right now beyond a terrible and slow mobile network with LTE / 5G.
Let’s explore both setups.
Scenario 1: Deutsche Telekom High Speed Internet (DSL)
I live in a small village in Bavaria, Germany. I am actually lucky as we got high speed internet from Deutsche Telekom several years ago. The maximum download speed in my area is ~25 Megabit per second, while the upload is <10 Megabit per second. The latency is very good with stable <10ms.
This is actually a pretty decent infrastructure for a small village. Downloads are decent (but not ultra fast). Uploads are slow. But I only occasionally need to upload large files (like 100GB+ video files). This takes hours and I need to keep my computer running.
My Deutsche Telekom DSL connection is good enough for most use cases, like online gaming with my Playstation or Xbox, or watching multiple video streams from YouTube, Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, etc.
However, the maximum network capacity can be reached by four people living in my house. And especially me being a tech nerd and sports fan watching on multiple screens in parallel. For instance, I am a huge fan of the NFL and college football. I regularly watch several live games in parallel. This is a bit comparable to the sportsbook in casinos in Las Vegas.
The latter scenario motivated me to try out and install Starlink in my current house. I wanted to watch several sports streams in parallel while the others can still watch their tv shows in other rooms. As a side benefit, larger downloads and uploads are much faster than using my current DSL, too.
And I had to look forward to another scenario which I know it will hit me soon…
Scenario 2: No DSL or Fiber Available at Home (Until Deutsche Glasfaser is Available)
I am building a new home in the same village where I already live my entire life. I will move to the new house in the mid of 2024. Even though the new building is only a few meters aways, I will NOT get a high-speed internet connection via Deutsche Telekom. Officially, there is no free capacity in the network, but I assume it is more a cost/value decision. As you don’t have any other option or vendor in such a small village, I needed to find another solution. This scenario is why I initially started my research and learned about Starlink.
Legally, you have the right to get internet in Germany for “daily life” by law (meaning at least supporting email, Amazon orders, YouTube and Netflix in basic resolution, etc.). So, in theory, you can enforce Deutsche Telekom to build a new network capacity for you as they are the only provider in my village to provide the infrastructure… If there is no other option. This is where it gets absurd: Deutsche Telekom shows a mobile network with LTE / 5G as “green” (i.e., very good connectivity) in my area. In reality, it is “dark red”. I only have a terrible connection outside the house and close to zero connection inside the house.
My village is getting Deutsche Glasfaser, i.e. high speed fiber and much better than DSL) these months as another alternative. Fiber-optic internet is outstanding. However, for new houses, it can take up to two years until the provider connects the infrastructure to your house because roadworks are required.
I could not live without high-speed internet for some months, both for work and leisure. Hence, I am so glad that Starlink is available as another option until I get Deutsche Glasfaser.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet constellation project developed by SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk. The goal of Starlink is to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband internet service to underserved and remote areas around the world. The constellation consists of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) that communicate with ground stations and user terminals to deliver internet access.
Key features of Starlink include:
- Satellite Constellation: Starlink’s satellite constellation consists of thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit, forming a network that can provide global internet coverage.
- Low Earth Orbit (LEO): Unlike traditional geostationary satellites that orbit much higher above the Earth, Starlink satellites are in low Earth orbit, which helps reduce latency and improve internet speed.
- High-Speed Internet: Starlink aims to deliver high-speed internet access, comparable to or better than many terrestrial broadband services. This is particularly beneficial in areas where traditional internet infrastructure is limited.
- Global Coverage: The satellite constellation provides internet coverage to virtually every corner of the globe, reaching remote and rural areas where traditional broadband infrastructure is challenging to deploy.
- User Terminals: Customers receive the internet signal through user terminals (commonly referred to as satellite dishes) installed at their homes or businesses. These terminals automatically align with the satellites overhead.
- Mobile and Maritime Connectivity: Besides residential and business use, Starlink provides connectivity for mobile users and maritime applications, extending its reach to various sectors.
Starlink has been deploying satellites in batches through Falcon 9 rocket launches. Users can subscribe to the service in many countries today.
The Proof of Concept: Using Starlink Satellite Internet at Home Instead of DSL
I can survive in my current home with Deutsche Telekom DSL. But I tried out Starlink to validate if this is a serious option for my new house as long as Deutsche Glasfaser is not available. And that could take years.
Ordering Starlink is super easy. No complex contracts or many options to choose from. You just subscribe and Starlink sends you the hardware. The subscription service starts and you use the offering. That’s how it should be. And there is no risk as you can cancel the subscription every month, like a video streaming service.
I wasn’t sure if I also need the installation kit. Actually, I wasn’t sure where and how I need to install the hardware at all. Also, I was not sure if this works well with my existing network infrastructure. I use a FritzBox as a router. The router distributes the internet through my house via LAN cables and Wi-Fi Access Points.
Hints for your order if you want to try it out:
- Check the cable length you need from the Starlink satellite dish (outside your house) to the Starlink Wi-Fi router (inside your house). The cable has a proprietary interface. This is not standard LAN and built for outside connections surviving water and snow.
- Think about where to install the satellite dish. Even small obstructions kill the connection for some milliseconds (meaning gaming or video conference calls will have lags regularly).
- Think about how to fix the satellite dish (e.g., on your roof). It needs to survive storms. Snow and water are no problem. The dish even has heating to melt snow.
- Do you only want Wi-Fi access? I guess most people want to connect via a LAN cable at home. The LAN adapter costs extra. Don’t forget to add it. Otherwise, your router will only provide wireless access.
Depending on your answers, you might add a longer cable and the construction set to the shopping basket.
The installation of Starlink satellite internet is very easy. I call it the “Tesla experience”. Here are the steps:
- Put the satellite dish at the right spot (make sure that there are zero obstructions, but the software will help you do a scan).
- Connect the satellite dish via the cable to the Starlink router.
- Install the Starlink mobile app.
- Turn everything on, wait a few minutes until everything is started and up-to-date.
- Configure the Wi-Fi via the Starlink mobile app.
- Enjoy high-speed satellite internet with all your devices.
It is that easy and works well.
If you need to connect Starlink to your existing DSL router (like my FRITZ!Box 7590), it is just one more step. Connect the Starlink router to the DSL router via the WAN interface and configure the latter. That’s it. If you did not forget to order the LAN adapter. I did not, so I had to wait a few more days after another order… 🙂
Challenge 1: How to Fix the Satellite Dish on the Roof?
Because Starlink requires zero obstructions, most houses will probably require installing the satellite dish on top of the roof of your house or garage. At least, this is the only option I had to operate without obstructions (and without putting the hardware in the middle of my garden).
Here is my Starlink installation on top of the roof of the garage:
A friend installed and fixed it with a custom handmade solution. This is quick, but not dirty – it is stable and survives wind and storm. But I would choose a more professional installation on top of the roof of my house if I did not move to my new house a few months later in 2024.
Challenge 2: How to Get the Cable through the Wall of the House?
You need to get the Starlink cable from the roof to your internet control room (where your router sits).
If you plan long term (after you did a proof of concept), you can drill a hole through the wall, of course.
Because I knew I move in a few months, I put the cable through the window. It works, even though I closed the window afterwards. This is not an excellent solution. And it can break the cable if you re-open the window regularly. But it worked as a quick and dirty workaround for my setup.
My Experiences with Starlink Satellite Internet at Home in Daily Life (Work and Leisure)
This is probably the most interesting section for most readers. My summary first: Starlink High-Speed Satellite Internet works very well. I am very impressed with the fast network connection and stability of the network.
The Pros of Starlink
I could do everything I wanted to do without issues: Work at home (including large downloads and uploads, video conferences like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, et al.), online gaming, and still let the other people in my house do their internet stuff in parallel.
The download and upload speed is outstanding (compared to my DSL network). The speed changes depending on how many other people use it in your area. An area is more like Germany or Europe, I guess, not my village or a close city. On Saturday night, the network seems more busy than Tuesday morning at 4am. But I always had 50+ MBit/s download and 20+ MBit/s upload. Usually much more than that.
The Cons of Starlink
Being an internet provider over satellite, Starlink has a few issues (for some use cases). The latency is worse than DSL or fiber-optic internet. But still good enough for video conferences and (non-professional) gaming. I am surprised and fine with a latency between 10ms and 20ms most of the time. Though, you have some spikes to values between 50ms and 100ms during the day.
The Starlink app monitors outages. Usually, network connections break only for a few milliseconds. This happens regularly many times a day, but does NOT break any of my use cases. Disconnections of 5+ seconds are very rare. Maybe once or twice a day, on average. The consequence might be a freeze in your video conference. It is not perfect and less stable than DSL or fiber. But hey, this is satellite internet and you likely have no better option.
The last trade-off of Starlink is capacity caps. To be clear: I did not have a bandwidth cap. Officially, there is none. However, it seems like some users get at least much lower download speeds after reaching a threshold. Rumors say you should not use more than one Terabyte per month. This is already a lot. I still had more. Around 1.5 TB per month. I had no issues or limitations in bandwidth. And again, this is satellite, so I even understand if there are some caps (or premium charges if you want to use more).
Starlink satellite internet is no alternative to DSL or fiber.
To be very clear: If you can get DSL or fiber, it is almost always the better option. DSL or Fiber provide a more stable connection, better latency, (usually) similar or higher speed, and usually lower cost than Starlink.
But the goal of Starlink is not replacing DSL or Fiber from telcos, but to provide another option for all the desperate people that do not have access to high-speed internet.
Some other trade-offs and risks of Starlink are
- Bandwidth cap depending on your usage
- More expensive than DSL / Fiber (okay for me, and still a fair price for the service)
- More users in your region means less bandwidth for you, especially during rush hour (though, more satellites are coming, too)
- Voice-over-IP, phone calls, and other telco use cases might not work with Starlink at all, like they do with your DSL or Fiber provider.
How Much does Starlink Cost and is it Worth it?
The price of Starlink is pretty fair. Most people choosing Starlink don’t have another option like DSL or Fiber. Like me, they are usually willing to pay a premium for high-speed internet.
In the beginning I paid 80 Euro per month for Starlink. I paid 65 Euro per month for the internet subscription, and an additional 15 Euro for renting the satellite dish. You can also buy the latter for a fair price. This makes sense if you plan to use it for 3+ years.
A few notes on pricing:
- You can cancel every month. Starlink does not lock you into a long-running contract. This is impressive. I am locked into my Deutsche Telekom DSL contract for 24 months. And this is normal in Germany.
- Starlink reduced pricing a few times in the past years and automatically adjusts existing subscriptions. Shortly before I ordered Starlink, it was 100 Euro / month. When I ordered, it was 80 Euro / month. Two months after I received it, Starlink reduced the price to 65 Euro / month. And they automatically adjusted my subscription. That was an unbelievable WOW to me, being used to ugly long-running contracts by communication service providers in Germany!
- Pricing is different in every country. Check your region.
- Pricing is different (and much more expensive) for mobile connectivity, like on your camping van or boat.
Starlink – High Speed and Good Pricing if DSL / Fiber is NOT Available!
I am surprised positively about the Starlink experience. Installation, the software, pricing and the internet speed are great value for the money. My proof of concept was successful.
I cancelled my subscription for now (because fiber via Deutsche Glasfaser is now available in my street). But I will come back to Starlink when moving to my new house in a few months (and use it until Fiber is available there). While I can cancel the contract each month, unfortunately, the residential subscription cannot be paused for a few months like the mobile one.
I hope this review helps you to evaluate Starlink satellite internet as an option for your high-speed internet use cases. Feel free to share your feedback with me. If you care about other technology topics, join my newsletter (even though I mainly blog about software development, open source, cloud infrastructure, and big data analytics).