SpaceX Shares Big Starlink Upgrades – U.S. Peak Latency Drops, 200+ Software Builds In Play

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After a couple of years since it opened the service for public use, SpaceX has shared important updates about its Starlink satellite internet service. Starlink is the world’s largest satellite internet constellation, made up of thousands of satellites that have benefited from SpaceX’s ability to rapidly launch the satellites. According to SpaceX’s latest update, Starlink latency has dropped significantly, a major win for the network that has been under scrutiny for high latency.

SpaceX Significantly Cuts Down Latency For Peak Usage Times In The U.S.

The early days of Starlink’s roll out saw users report impressive download speeds as the number of satellites was more than enough to meet requirements. However, over the course of the next couple of years, median speeds dropped since the rate at which new users signed up for the service was faster than the pace at which SpaceX could launch the satellites.

Latency, or the time that it takes for an information packet to travel from and back to a user’s computer, has also been quite controversial when it comes to Starlink. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doubted that SpaceX could provide low latency internet to underserved areas in the U.S., which also led the regulatory body to cancel SpaceX’s $886 million grant for Starlink.

Now, SpaceX’s latest Starlink white paper shares that median and peak time latencies for the service in the U.S. have been reduced by 30% and 60%, respectively. The two now sit at 33 milliseconds and 65 milliseconds, and for global Starlink users, the median and peak latencies have been reduced by 25% and 35%.

SpaceX’s latest latency data for Starlink. Image: SpaceX

SpaceX also shared details of what induces latency into the Starlink network and the steps taken to resolve it. The firm’s earlier announcement that more than ten thousand laser links are now operational in the Starlink constellation made waves, but according to the latest details, they also ended up increasing Starlink latency. This is because lasers are a last case resort and are used when the Starlink satellites cannot find a connection with a ground station. This naturally makes the path that the data packet travels on longer and ends up introducing latency in the Starlink system.

The changes that have driven down Starlink latency include hardware and software upgrades. On the former front, SpaceX plans to add six points of presence or PoPs in the U.S. These are points to which the data travels from the Starlink ground stations, and more PoPs will reduce the time that it takes for the user to communicate with the PoP.

Software wise, ground station capacity to handle more satellite links has been introduced and software upgrades to the router will allow users to run multiple heavy duty applications simultaneously. Another upgrade covers the user’s communications with the satellites and looks at the number of users that a satellite can cover and the network resources they are able to share.

Cumulatively, SpaceX shares that since the start of 2024, engineers have “deployed and tested 193 different satellite software builds, 75 gateway software builds, 222 Starlink software builds, and 57 WiFi software builds.

The latest Starlink upgrades come as SpaceX continues to rely on the Falcon 9 to launch the satellites and rushes to the third Starship flight in Texas. Starship becoming operational will provide the Starlink network with a key capacity boost by allowing SpaceX to significantly increase the number of satellites that it can launch per mission.

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