Starlink Australia: Price, launch date, features and more

Elon Musk's new satellite-based Internet service promises fast broadband across Australia.

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Satellite Internet isn't a new thing in Australia. Those in remote and regional areas have been using NBN Sky Muster since it launched in 2015.

But now, there's a new competitor in the space as Elon Musk's Starlink service finally becomes available Down Under.

Starlink in a nutshell

  • It's Elon Musk's new satellite Internet service, launched by private aerospace company, SpaceX
  • Availability is currently limited to Australians in southern NSW and northern Victoria, but others in Australia can place a pre-order for shipping later in the year
  • Equipment costs $709 upfront + $100 shipping, with a single unlimited data plan for $139 per month
  • Speeds are advertised between 50Mbps and 150Mbps

Starlink is a private satellite Internet service launched by Elon Musk's aerospace company, SpaceX.

It was first prototyped in 2018 and made available to North American consumers in late 2020.

SpaceX's plan is to have thousands of low-earth satellites forming a global cluster capable of delivering Internet services to just about any spot on the planet.

It aims to eventually provide high-speed broadband to customers worldwide who can't get a decent Internet connection.

  • Why this matters: There are potentially faster Internet speeds up for grabs for Aussies living in regional and rural areas, where you're more likely to be on NBN satellite or fixed wireless with lacklustre speeds.

How does SpaceX Internet work?

Starlink operates through a network of low-Earth-orbit satellites that bounce signals from your equipment back to ground stations on Earth, completing a broadband connection.

Because Starlink satellites are closer to the Earth than other satellite services, signals should take less time to reach them, meaning a faster connection.

Starlink is in its beta phase in Australia, with limited availability to customers in southern NSW and northern Victoria.

There are plans to expand to more of Australia in the future, with pre-orders now available to customers outside of the original beta areas of NSW and Victoria.

Currently, Starlink's Australian operating licence only allows it to provide service in "low and remote density areas", which mostly excludes capital cities (though not Canberra).

In total, you're looking at a minimum spend of $950 to get Starlink in Australia.

You'll be paying for:

  • Plan fees: $139 a month for unlimited data
  • Hardware fees: $709 (includes Starlink dish, router, power supply, cables and mounting tripod)
  • Shipping fee: $100

There is currently only 1 Starlink plan available (with unlimited data) during Starlink's beta period. Data caps may or may not be implemented in the future.

You're also required to pay a $139 deposit when you pre-order, which you can get refunded in full any time before your Starlink equipment ships.

While Starlink dishes are often set up on the ground, some people will need the extra height of their roof to establish a clear connection.

If you need to put the dish on your roof, you'll have to pay extra for a roof mount.

Starlink is advertising that its services are capable of speeds from 50Mbps to 150Mbps, with latency between 20ms and 40ms in most locations.

However, it also notes that there "will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all", a problem that will decrease as more satellites are launched.

An Australian Starlink user interviewed by the ABC in mid-April 2021 recorded consistent speeds between 150Mbps and 250Mbps, and founder Elon Musk tweeted in February that speeds may double to 300Mbps later in 2021.

Maximum speeds will likely fluctuate as the beta proceeds. They'll drop as more users join the network and rise as more satellites are launched.

Keep in mind that like any wireless technology, there are a few factors that can affect your achievable speeds on the network. These include environmental factors and network load.

Like a busy road, if Starlink has too many customers trying to access its services all at once, everyone's Internet speed could slow to a crawl.

As things stand, no. Starlink is currently promising speeds between 50Mbps and 150Mbps, while Optus's 5G network averages more than 300Mbps.

Both networks are expected to increase in speed as extra satellites and signal towers are added, respectively.

Is Starlink or 5G right for me?

The main difference between Starlink and 5G is coverage.

Starlink is only available in low-density areas outside of capital cities, while 5G is mostly available in high-density areas – like capital cities.

If you have access to one, you likely don't have easy access to the other.

Your decision might also be influenced by price. Starlink's plan is considerably more expensive than 5G home wireless plans, with much better latency.

  • Example: A monthly 5G unlimited home wireless plan from Optus costs around half as much as a Starlink plan – $75 a month from Optus versus $139 a month with Starlink. Prices accurate as of June 2021.

There are upfront modem costs with 5G home Internet, but they're nowhere near as high as Starlink's $800+ fees.

  • The bottom line: 5G currently performs faster than Starlink, but you'll need to check which technology you have access to. 5G home Internet plans are currently cheaper than Starlink, but come with poorer latency which isn't great news for gamers.

This is a complex question because it depends on which NBN technology you're looking at. Overall, Starlink compares very well to the NBN in terms of speed, but not so well on price.

Starlink vs fixed-line NBN speed

For some NBN customers, especially those on lower-quality FTTN connections, Starlink's claim of 150Mbps offers much faster speeds than their NBN providers can offer.

In fact, it's faster than the maximum speed of a fixed-line NBN 100 plan.

Keep in mind that faster NBN plans do exist (NBN 250 and NBN 1000) but are currently limited to FTTP and some HFC connection types, and are not widely available just yet.

If you're lucky enough to have access to them, your average speeds will be faster than Starlink.

However, your latency – the time taken for signals to reach a server – will mostly be higher on Starlink compared to a fixed line connection, since the satellites are far away.

High latency can be a problem for video conferencing, and especially online gaming.

Starlink vs wireless NBN speed

For NBN Sky Muster satellite customers, there's no comparison. NBN satellite speeds are capped at 25Mbps and often provide low amounts of data.

Starlink is a superior choice here, offering up to 6 times faster speeds than NBN satellite, complete with unlimited data.

NBN fixed wireless customers may prefer Starlink too. Fixed wireless plans currently top out at 75Mbps, so on paper Starlink has a speed edge here.

  • The bottom line: While NBN Co is upgrading homes across Australia to fibre connections and raising potential speeds, Starlink is a better bet for speed at the moment, especially if you live outside metropolitan areas.

The NBN is definitely cheaper, whether you're looking at individual plan prices or setup fees.

Starlink's Internet plan will cost you $139 a month, which is more expensive than even the fastest NBN plans available in our database.

  • Example: The average NBN 1000 plan offers typical evening speeds of up to 1,000Mbps, which is nearly 7 times faster than Starlink. The cheapest one in our database costs $113 a month. Price accurate as of June 2021.

Besides the monthly cost, you'll also need to factor in setup fees.

Equipment for the NBN is provided for free by NBN Co. All you have to do is pay for a modem when you sign up to a plan (around $100).

On the opposite side, Starlink will set you back about $800 just to set up.

  • The bottom line: Depending on which NBN technology is available at your house, Starlink could be a better bet in terms of reliable speed. However, this speed comes at a steeper cost than signing up for an NBN plan.

If you're living outside the NBN fixed-line footprint, or stuck with a poor Fibre to the Node/Curb connection, Starlink could be a highly appealing option for you.

We've listed the pros and cons of signing up to Starlink below to help you make a decision.

Pros

  • Extremely high satellite speeds compared to the NBN
  • Service will improve as more satellites are launched
  • Unlimited data (at least during beta)

Cons

  • No phone support (only digital)
  • Expensive $800+ setup fees
  • Currently limited availability in Australia

Price is one of the deciding factors between signing up to NBN or Starlink.

If you don't mind Starlink's costs and can get in on the beta, you'll be opting for fast and mostly reliable Internet, no matter how remote your location.

Just remember that while NBN Co is government-owned and obligated by law to deliver broadband to Australians, Starlink is a private company with no such obligations and may change its business anytime as it sees fit.

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