LEO satellites – SpaceX Starlink
What is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite?
Picture with text. Text reads: LEO satellite connections such as Starlink rely on a ‘constellation’ of satellites which then transmit a signal to your devices.
Low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites are satellites that orbit the Earth at a height of 180–2,000km. This is significantly lower than geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, which orbit at around 36,000 kilometres from Earth. Because of the lower altitude of LEO satellites, it takes less time for a signal to travel from a device (such as a computer) to the satellite and back (known as latency), allowing for faster transmission of data.
Because of their orbiting height, LEO satellites work differently than geostationary satellites. GEO satellites can cover huge areas with a single satellite due to their height, but LEO satellites are deployed in “constellations” that work together to provide coverage for larger areas.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is the world’s first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit to deliver broadband internet capable of supporting streaming, online gaming, video calls and more. It was developed by the private space exploration company called SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk and is available across Australia. Starlink support is provided by an app via the US headquarters, from where they serve their global customer base.
Upon purchase, Starlink sends a kit for self-installation, including the Starlink dish, WiFi router, cables and mount. It is self-orienting and connects in minutes providing it has a clear, unobstructed view of the sky. These kits can be used in homes, businesses, and RVs (recreational vehicles) and costs apply, depending on the type of kit purchased. Starlink manages their services via a mobile app.
As information changes frequently, you can find out more about Starlink, view any frequently asked questions, check your ability to access Starlink, and access troubleshooting tips for your service at here. The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) website also has additional information on Starlink, including the pros and cons of the service.
Quick Starlink Facts
As of May 2023, indicative costs and speeds for residential installations in rural, regional, and remote Australia are as follows:
- hardware is priced at a starting price of $199 (discounted, normally $924)
- shipping is $30 to anywhere in Australia
- monthly internet service charge starting from $139 for unlimited data usage
- expected download speeds ranging from 150-300Mbps.
- Fast download and upload speeds, lower latency
- Currently offer unlimited data plans
- Plans are easy to order and are directly through Starlink.
- Can be relocated (if the new location’s cell isn’t full) and portable (for an additional cost). Self service tools are available on online to assist with this.
- Available in all Australian areas including island locations, under residential, business and RV plans.
- Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the US overseas headquarters (see above for ways to get in touch with Starlink support).
- The Starlink dish is designed to withstand wind speeds of over 200km/h, provided it is securely mounted.
- While the range of coverage is across all of Australia, the number of connections per cell is limited and in some areas are filling up fast.
- SpaceX is an international company, with their support network based in the US. Typically, the way to access support is through the mobile app
- The equipment is not guaranteed to withstand temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius, therefore the dish should be brought inside on extremely hot days. Remember, there can be dangers with interfering with electrical equipment, and you cannot operate the dish once it is inside.
- There is a 12-month warranty on equipment, which excludes damage from weather, human, and animal impact.
- There are currently no Australian suppliers of Starlink services to residential homes.
- Equipment needs to be connected to the network at a minimum of every few months to maintain software updates.
- While speeds are generally fast and latency is low, dropouts can occur when the connection is switching satellites which could impact video conferencing and voice calls.
- Plans, costs, data limits and speeds can be changed without notice.
- Should you need to replace hardware, shipping time takes between 1-2 weeks.
Canstar Blue has also provided a comprehensive review of Starlink here.
Useful information when ordering Starlink
- Check Starlink’s availability map on their website to see if there is coverage in your specific location.
- If there is no coverage, information on the map shows when it is expected to be activated.
- In some locations the cell for your area may be full, meaning there is a waitlist. It is possible to pay a deposit and receive an estimate on the roll-out window. However, placing a deposit does not guarantee service. Please read Starlink’s Pre-Order agreement here.
- Just like with GEO satellites, a clear line of site to the sky is required (typically due south, unlike GEO Satellites which is estimated to require 100 degrees of the sky).
- When you choose your installation location, remember to look for obstructions, such as trees or other built infrastructure that may impede signal strength.
- Initially powering on can take up to 20 minutes, which includes configuring the wireless details/software updates on the included router.
- Obstruction information in the app can take a minimum of 12 hours to build.
- When purchasing a Starlink service, costs that need to be considered include the Starlink kit, credit card usage, additional equipment (such as ethernet cables), and installation by a registered cabler.
- If you have an issue with your Starlink service, the preferred process is to open a ticket via your account in the Customer Support panel on the mobile app, using ‘consumer complaint’ in the subject line. You can also email email@example.com or call 1800 954 824, however, it is important to note with any of these methods, the initial lodgement of your complaint is managed through automatic responses which guide you in lodging your complaint, not human interaction. You can find out more about Starlink’s complaint process here.
Tips for signing up and installing Starlink
- Download the Starlink app to your mobile phone, using the appropriate link below. You can use it to work out the best location to place your Starlink dish for an uninterrupted view of the southern sky (Australian services). Once downloaded, the App will work without a mobile connection for this purpose.
- Consider using a mobile number instead of a landline number when signing up with Starlink. This is because Starlink predominantly uses online and text support to resolve troubleshooting issues or problems with your account.
- Use a freely provided email address like @gmail.com or @hotmail.com as your contact email address, as provider-based emails such as from Bigpond may block your confirmation email from Starlink.
- Ensure you have entered the correct spelling of email addresses and correct digits of mobile numbers, as login information after completing signup is sent to the email and it can be challenging to correct once the signup is completed.
- Keep a record of your order number when it is displayed on the screen (once you have signed up), as you may need to provide this if there are problems with your account or service.
- Ensure you only place orders with Starlink directly (starlink.com), as there are currently no resellers of the residential kits in Australia.
- If you have not already done so, set up your Starlink account, as this will give you access to their ticket support system. You will receive a confirmation email, which will have a link on further requirements for setting up your account. If you do not receive your confirmation email, see below for how to lodge a complaint or enquiry. If you have difficulties logging into your account after this, visit here and choose one of the options provided.
- Use the ground level mount that comes with your Starlink dish to test your equipment before installing on your roof. This mount is provided by Starlink for ground level installation or for a quick setup enabling testing of your internet connection. Do not use this mount for the permanent installation on your roof. To test the equipment, set it up on your lawn, in a location where the app indicates there are minimal obstructions. This will ensure there are no faults with your kit prior to permanent installation.
- Positioning: Ensure you have a clear view of the sky, as Starlink will not work inside, even through a large window or skylight. Using the ‘Check for Obstructions’ tool on the Starlink app will assist in finding the best location for installation.
- Powering up: Connect Starlink to power, and you will connect to Starlink’s satellites within a few minutes.
- The Starlink dish automatically levels itself to search for satellites overhead. Do NOT attempt to manually adjust your Starlink. A connection is then made to the Starlink constellation, and the dish continues to tilt to find the optimum angle for coverage depending on your location. This process can take up to 30 minutes.
- Each time Starlink powers up in can take from 5-15 minutes.
- Connecting: You are now all set up and connected to Starlink. It is possible after the initial set up you may need to download and update to the latest software to ensure optimal performance. Sometimes this happens automatically overnight, or you may receive a message in the Starlink app regarding the update. The app will also advise when all updates are completed, make sure you wait for this notification.
- It’s important to let the system establish the connection on its own, rebooting or turning the power on and off is not advised as it interrupts this process.
Using The App
- The Starlink app provides details on performance, including outages and obstructions. Messages regarding the status of your connection will come through the app. The below links provide information on what to do when receiving some common messages:
- Disconnected – Connect to your Starlink WiFi – https://support.starlink.com/?topic=8c2013d8-844d-75bc-ed2b-2d696a5834ed
- Starlink is Offline – Disconnected – https://support.starlink.com/?topic=4d4c0dd1-2218-c54f-045f-39cbf971815c. Often the most common cause of this message is your cable is not seated correctly, so check that your cable is fitted snugly.
- Starlink is Offline – Booting – https://support.starlink.com/?topic=718b444d-e8c2-eeee-c214-beecc96e44ae
- Starlink is Offline – Searching – https://support.starlink.com/?topic=8dd04f1b-f7b3-882c-3827-a660c5fe48c7
- Support for all Starlink services is available 24/7 and based in the US, however an immediate response is not guaranteed.
- Delivery of replacement equipment for hardware failures is reliant on stock availability and can take 1-2 weeks.
- The Starlink Support Page has an extensive list of topics and solutions. You can provide feedback on the usefulness of these topics.
- If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you will need to log in to your account and submit a ticket for support.
Submitting a complaint
You can submit your complaint in the following ways:
- Open a ticket: The recommended way to lodge a complaint and receive a quick resolution is to log into your Starlink Account online in the Customer Support Portal and submit a Customer Support Request describing your issue and your desired resolution. Please include “Consumer Complaint” in the subject of your ticket request.
- Send an email: Describe your issue in detail and your desired resolution to Starlink. Please include “Consumer Complaint” and your Starlink Account Number in the subject of your email.
- Send a letter: Describe your issue in detail and your desired resolution, and include “Consumer Complaint” and your Starlink Account Number in the subject of your letter to the following address:
Starlink Internet Services Pte. Ltd
Level 10, 68 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
- By phone: Call 1800 954 824 and initiate a complaint. Ensure you have the above details ready to provide.
To submit a complaint (for non-troubleshooting issues), there is a specific process which can be found here. Including the below details are important:
- Put Consumer Complaint and your account number in the heading (for an email or letter)
- Account name
- Order service location
- Contact phone number and email address used at the time of ordering
- Order number if possible (it would have been displayed on the screen at time of order)
- Proof of purchase (your online bank account will have it) – take a screenshot of the transaction only – it may also have your Starlink Account number. Don’t include your bank account details.
Other LEO satellite operators
SpaceX Starlink is currently the only commercially operating LEO satellite service available in Australia. However, the number of providers is expected to grow in the coming 1-3 years. Other LEO satellite service providers that are expected to service Australia, include: