scorecardSpaceX's Starlink satellite-internet service provides rapid speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds, and deep snow, users report
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SpaceX's Starlink satellite-internet service provides rapid speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds, and deep snow, users report

Kate Duffy   

SpaceX's Starlink satellite-internet service provides rapid speeds of 175 Mbps in freezing temperatures, high winds, and deep snow, users report
Tech4 min read
  • Users of SpaceX's Starlink satellite-internet service said how impressed they were with download speeds in snow and high-speed winds on the Reddit Starlink community.
  • One user reported speeds reaching 175 Mbps in the colder air, which is 20 Mbps faster than usual.
  • The Starlink terminal even withstood a user's 175 mph leafblower.
  • The terminal – or "UFO on a stick" – heats up enough to melt the snow on top of it. But some users said internet speeds drop as the snow initially builds up.

SpaceX's Starlink satellite-internet service gives users rapid speeds reaching 175 Mbps even in high-speed winds, deep snow, and freezing temperatures.

Elon Musk's aerospace company sent an update email to beta testers Tuesday saying its made upgrades to the service, including a "Snow Melt Mode" for the Starlink dishes.

Users of SpaceX's "Better Than Nothing Beta" test have posted pictures and videos on the Reddit Starlink community proving that the Starlink terminal still works in extreme weather conditions - and in some cases, it's even faster.

The terminal - or "UFO on a stick" - comes as part of the Starlink kit, which also includes a tripod and a WiFi router costing $499, plus $99 for the monthly subscription.

In a previous email on October 26, SpaceX said users of the public beta test - a network of nearly 900 satellites beaming the internet service down to Earth - should expect between 50 and 150 Mbps download speeds.

From what users have reported online in the past week, it seems the Starlink internet service isn't significantly impacted by the wet and windy weather.

Users cannot reveal their identity due to a non-disclosure agreement they signed with SpaceX upon receiving the kit.

Snow melts off Starlink terminal in freezing temperatures

In a Q&A session with Reddit's Starlink community November 21, engineers working on SpaceX's satellite-internet service confirmed that Starlink has "self-heating capabilities to deal with a variety of weather conditions."

They said the dish is certified to operate from -30 to +40 degrees celsius, adding that they plan to deploy software updates that will "upgrade our snow melting ability" in the coming months.

Since October when selected people were able to sign up for SpaceX's satellite internet, the lucky subscribers have taken to Reddit to share their download speeds while the terminal is out in bad weather.

One Starlink subscriber posted pictures on the Reddit community on Tuesday of their terminal in a snowstorm. "First heavy snow, no problem," they said, showing a screenshot of their internet speed hitting 150 Mbps.

On December 13, one Starlink customer based in Michigan posted pictures of their terminal in the snow and a speed test showing download speeds of 133 Mbps. They said: "Dishy is handling a snowstorm pretty well."

Another user, who lives in northern US, told Business Insider in November that their Starlink internet speed averages 20 Mbps faster in the colder air at 12 degrees fahrenheit. "I've been getting about 175 Mbps download average this morning, whereas it has been around 150-160 before," they said.

Many users who reported November speeds on a list compiled by Reddit's Starlink community said they were getting download speeds faster than 150 Mbps.

The fastest download speed so far is 209.17 Mpbs, recorded in New York in November.

The user also posted six thermal imaging pictures which showed the terminal's surface ranging from 32 to 40 degrees, meaning the terminal melts the snow that lands on it.

But there are reports of the internet service slowing down when heavy snow begins to fall on top of the terminal.

One user, also in northern US, weighted down their Starlink tripod on their outside table before a 50 mph snow storm set in. The snow reached to three inches in around an hour, and the Starlink app showed "poor connection," they reported.

The user told Business Insider in November that download speeds initially dropped to around 20 to 30 Mbps and upload speeds fell to three Mbps.

"Definitely had some higher latency and slower speeds when [snow] was coming down hard, building up on the dish, and winds were blowing, but quickly picked back up as it slowed down."

"I've still been averaging around 100 [Mbps] download and 15 [Mbps] upload," they said.

"It's going to be a dream for those folks in the middle of nowhere that don't currently have any options," they added.

The user said on Reddit he'd prefer to mount the terminal on the roof, but said he didn't know if he would trust it with the winds in Montana.

In the Reddit Q&A session with SpaceX engineers, they said the dish is "not designed for tropical storms, tornadoes, etc." They advised users to bring the dish inside if they were concerned.

Read more: Elon Musk says Starlink's 'most difficult technical challenge' isn't launching satellites - it's dropping the cost of its 'UFO on a stick' devices

Starlink terminal can withstand 175 mph winds

Despite concerns about the Starlink terminal surviving strong winds, one user put the Starlink terminal to the ultimate test and blasted it with a 175 mph leaf-blower.

Download speeds remained between 110 and 120 Mbps, according to speed tests that the user carried out before and after their experiment.

The user found that if winds are blowing at the terminal, it automatically adjusts to stay aligned with the satellite.

All four reports come from northern US, where Musk's company has begun testing the service, as well as in southern Canada where SpaceX is delivering its satellite-internet to indigenous communities, such as Pikangikum.

In October, SpaceX agreed to provide internet in a Texas school district via its Starlink network of satellites - the first time that SpaceX's Starlink is being offered in southern US.

Starting early 2021, the space company will initially supply its satellite internet to 45 families who do not have broadband access, and an additional 90 families later on.