Starlink

Brian_B

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Dishy came in today. Ships with the dish, a small tripod, a router (which I am not using - plugging straight to the dish works with your own router via bridged/DHCP, so I’m using an edgerouter), and the biggest POE adapter I’ve very seen. It has pre-terminated CAT cables - which makes it annoying to run into the house.

I have it on a temporary platform until I get my solar up later this spring.

First fast.com test hit at 99Mb. I will update once I get a chance to run clean tests on it - wife is going nuts downloading everything at once on Steam on her rig.

Here are the installation instructions
9E1AFE31-42DF-4160-8F84-B3448FC345F7.jpeg
 

Space_Ranger

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Nice! I'm waiting for my unit to arrive. I'm so glad the instructions are precise and to the point.. LOL
 

LazyGamer

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We've started considering looking at houses and... the two basic requirements are:
  • Fiber internet
  • Legal requirements to raise chickens are met
But given how unreliable terrestrial networks are as well as the desire to travel while doing photography (and how unreliable internet connections can be when traveling!), Starlink definitely has my interest.

Really looking forward to what you have to share Brian!
 

Brian_B

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Looking at it through EdgeOS interface on the router: I've seen it hit RX rate over 160MB, but right now speeds are all over the place. It can hit a peak of over 150 and ramp down to 0 for a few seconds, then ramp right back up to 150 in the space of a minute. I don't have a good feel for average overall speed, but it's definitely beating out our old 14MB DSL service (of which I never tested faster than 12MB) even with the lulls in speed.

I have my old DSL still active and set up on failover (Edgerouter X), I've not seen the low/slow spots last long enough for the router to kick over to the older DSL service as of yet. How much of this is to be expected, and how much it will impact something like streaming - I don't know yet. Starlink does have this posted across my Account page:

Your area is currently experiencing intermittent service. Our team is investigating.

As this is my first day of service, I couldn't say how much of that is to be expected, how much is due to this issue, if any of this is just the spot I chose to set the dish down at, or what it looks like when this issue isn't occurring.

The dish does move about a bit, but it's nothing drastic or distracting, and it's silent when it does so. It's a bit bigger than your standard Satellite TV dish, but not by much. It tends to orient northward, close to nearly overhead, whereas satellite TV tends to be directed southward at a decent angle to the horizon in our location.
 

LazyGamer

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My biggest concern would be latency. While the constellation is still being established latency is likely all over the place. Once it's stable it should be pretty low in lower-density service areas.

I doubt we'd ever see the 10ms to 30ms that terrestrial links can manage to nearby metropolitan datacenters, but the claimed ~50ms average should be achievable and that'd be plenty good enough!


Also, did you get an eye on the TX rate? I realize that that's going to be one of the limitations on the general consumer side and I don't expect Starlink to be terribly economical for running servers, but it'd be nice if it were at least reliable for say remoting home let alone video conferencing.
 

Brian_B

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My biggest concern would be latency. While the constellation is still being established latency is likely all over the place. Once it's stable it should be pretty low in lower-density service areas.
I doubt we'd ever see the 10ms to 30ms that terrestrial links can manage to nearby metropolitan datacenters, but the claimed ~50ms average should be achievable and that'd be plenty good enough!


Also, did you get an eye on the TX rate? I realize that that's going to be one of the limitations on the general consumer side and I don't expect Starlink to be terribly economical for running servers, but it'd be nice if it were at least reliable for say remoting home let alone video conferencing.

Just pulled this down to see, I hadn't been paying a lot of attention to TX, since I don't upload a lot.


Capture.JPG

The latencies on here are fairly typical - 30-50ms unloaded, mid-high 100ms loaded, of all the runs I've done and let complete. There is a very large swing in the RX/TX numbers from run to run though.

I ran 3 runs just sitting here working on this post, the next run timed out in the middle of the test (and the router actually failed over to DSL), and the third run reported an 80Mb average down, 31ms unloaded ping 17Mb TX. I happened to have the router page open and snagged a couple of pics of the RX/TX graph Ubiquiti provides: the EdgeOS graph looked something like this.

Capture2.JPG

The graphs scroll to the left, so the most recent bar is on the right, going out to 1 minute on the left. Red/Eth1 is starlink, Yellow/pppoe would be my DSL service. So here, you can see the failed middle test all the way on the left, and it actually tried to kick over to DSL to finish the download portion (that really is the about the peak speed on my DSL service- about 10Mb RX 1Mb TX right there - so shows you how much better Starlink already is than what I had). It does start the upload portion of the middle test. Then you see that cancel out and start the download portion of test #3 - it peaks pretty quickly but it's already in it's cyclical downward pattern.

There are times when Steam is downloading that the EdgeOS graph almost looks like a sine wave - ramping up around 120/150, and then back down all the way to nil 30 seconds later. It won't always bottom out at zero, but more often than not it will drop down into single digits. Just watching EdgeOS like that, I've seen the bar peak at 195, but there is no good sustained rate - it's somewhat cyclical and constantly changing.

This one I snagged just while random updates are going, it better illustrates about what I see "on average", and you can see the cyclical nature a bit more clearly.

Capture3.jpg

So yeah, I hope it will get better as the service matures and more satellites get launched (supposedly it's supposed to peak at 300Mb by the end of the year), but right now it's all over the place. I think the service warning on the Starlink account page does apply to this, so I'm hoping what I'm seeing where the service drops entirely is an issue that gets ironed out soon - I can handle somewhat variable speeds, but entire drops to 0 / loss of connection are pretty rough, even if the service does tend to restore just a few seconds later. Latency doesn't seem bad, when it's actually pumping data, apart from when it actually drops all the way to 0 - and those times it's pretty noticeable.
 
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Brian_B

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So if you plug in the supplied router is gives some diagnostic info - which is nice. Once it’s been up for a while it can show you where it’s detecting obstructions. So there is one tree the unit is complaining about that may be impacting my drop out issue. So now in the process of moving the dish around trying to find a decent spot
 

Space_Ranger

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So if you plug in the supplied router is gives some diagnostic info - which is nice. Once it’s been up for a while it can show you where it’s detecting obstructions. So there is one tree the unit is complaining about that may be impacting my drop out issue. So now in the process of moving the dish around trying to find a decent spot
That's good to know! I wasn't going to use the router either but I'm inclined to do so hearing that it'll help with troubleshooting the connection. Once I get it solid, the switch things over to my pfsense router..
 

Brian_B

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That's good to know! I wasn't going to use the router either but I'm inclined to do so hearing that it'll help with troubleshooting the connection. Once I get it solid, the switch things over to my pfsense router..

Yeah I had heard that the router gives diag info, such as the firmware revision in the dish, so I just decided to plug it in and see what it does. Told me I had an obstruction, pointed to where it was at (using the phone app and a compass readout), and lo and behold there is indeed a neighbor's tree over there. I could go ninja cut it down in the middle of the night I guess, but I like being a good neighbor, and it's a decently looking tree, so I'll just juggle the dish around a bit. Not like it's permanently screwed down yet anyway.

It even gives a breakdown on how bad the obstruction is.. App told me 44 minutes in the last day my signal was being obscured. Along with about 18 minutes of just no satellites, and 9 minutes of "Beta" unavailability (I'm guessing firmware updates or something?)
 

Burticus

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Hey Brian, where are you located at? (zipcode?) And did you have to jump through any hoops to get this thing or just sign up for the beta?

My bro in law in upstate NY is jonesing hard for this, they have crap for internet up there
 

Brian_B

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Hey Brian, where are you located at? (zipcode?) And did you have to jump through any hoops to get this thing or just sign up for the beta?

My bro in law in upstate NY is jonesing hard for this, they have crap for internet up there

I’m in central CA — the exact center actually.

No big hoops - had just said I was interested about 6 months ago, did not pre order or anything, and then back in February got an email telling me it was available in my area for limited signups. I paid $600 and got the dish about 6 weeks later. I have heard if you miss the limited signup after an availability you can put down a $100 deposit and stay queued for when they get more coverage for your area.

I will also say - I moved my dish around a bit, I don’t have any place where I can get perfect t coverage — it requires pretty much open and clear northern exposure where I am, and there are just too many trees. But I did get it minimized. It still drops a bit - but much less than before.
 

LazyGamer

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I guess putting it on a pole is more or less out of the question?
 

Brian_B

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I guess putting it on a pole is more or less out of the question?
The dish could easily be pole mounted. The top of my roof is already 40’+ up though, and on my particular property a pole wouldn’t help much - the way the mountain lays and the trees are, it would have to be a really really tall pole. The area starlink wants unobstructed is a lot bigger than say, satellite tv. The dish moves, quite a bit actually, and it needs a lot of unobstructed visible area.

There is a starlink phone app that lets you use the camera to check for obstructions, and it isn’t kidding, if there is anything in the line of site, it will result in some degradation.

With my router set to fail over, when I first started up, about 30% of my routine traffic (basic web browsing, not heavy file downloads) would fail over to DSL. Since moving the dish to get a bit clearer line of sight (moved it up higher on the roof), I still have just the tip top of 2 trees in area, and I’m down to about 10% failover. I think that is about as good as I can get until those trees die out or the utility company cuts them down for “line fire hazard”.. or I put in a 75‘ pole, which I don’t think is a project I’m up for right now.

They are pretty trees though - two of the few healthy, large Ponderosa Pines we have left in the area. I wouldn’t want to cut them just for a bit faster Internet.
 

Brian_B

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I can put this out there too - I've seen speeds peak faster than this, but this is the fastest I've caught on fast.com. Speeds are still all over the place. 30-70 is common, with peaks up around 150 common. Again, somewhat cyclical in nature, I just see fewer complete drops/losses of signal, but the speeds still tend to drift up and down in about 60 sec sine wave pattern.

Capture.JPG

Latencies remain pretty well in that same ballpark - 30-50's so long as the signal hasn't completely been lost... uploads are usually in the 20 +/- range.

Trying to stream video on it - 4K HDR via Disney+ (Falcon right now) - not really a problem, we had 1 short interruption to buffer (drop in signal I assume) during an episode. Online gaming, particular games that require uninterrupted connection (for me, it's FFXIV, I can remember a lot of older MMOs were the same way) - they drop often enough to make it frustrating -- that is probably a symptom of my router fail over though moreso than the intermittency. Web browsing is improved, but still get a fail to load about 1 out of 20 clicks -- a refresh will pop it right up.

But wow.... downloading an nVidia driver update went from an hour to ... like 20 seconds. And Steam isn't backlogged with dozens of games all waiting to update. An iPhone update doesn't choke out the entire house like someone flushing the toilet while your in the shower. Little things.
 

Brian_B

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Thought I would update this since it's been about 6 weeks and everything has hit a kind of status quo.

I have the dish permanently mounted on my roof now. I wasn't able to clear all interference, but got it down pretty low. The router statistics show that I'm obstructed for about 1 minute out of ever 12 hours.

I have seen peak speeds break 250Mbs, but the average is probably still somewhere around 80-90. It's still somewhat cyclical in nature, but it doesn't tend to drop out entirely to 0. I caught a Fast.com report at 230 once, but it's much more commonly in the 60-120 range.

Latency remains in that 30-50 range for the most part. Upload speeds remain in that 15-25 range.

I do still have issues with drop out. About once every 5-10 minutes the signal will completely drop. It does come right back, if I'm pinging once per second, it will be one or two pings that get dropped. But it's enough that live streaming things disconnect: Zoom, Teams, most online games, etc. Web page loads occasionally will hit it, resulting in a load error that clears on refresh. Streaming content that can buffer is only rarely affected - I might see a 2 hour 4K HDR movie pause to buffer once. But it's enough that anything live just isn't consistent at all.

So if I have to get on a call for work or want to play an online game, I have to fall back to either cellular or the DSL.

I contacted SpaceX about that issue - they confirmed that my dish placement was pretty good and reminded me it's called "Better than Nothing Beta" for a reason. Hopefully it improves as satellite density goes up. I worry that things like average speed (peak speed is pretty meaningless except to be able post pretty pictures of speed tests) and latency will suffer as they add subscribers, but only time will tell how that gets affected.
 

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Thanks for the update @Brian_B !

I haven't received my hardware yet. Delivery isn't scheduled until August, so that tells me I'm dealing with service availability first. Time will tell but I'm eagerly looking forward to this for our family house in the mountains.
 

LazyGamer

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Honestly that's a pretty positive experience; would be nice if the conferencing software were able to detect that you're probably going to have hiccups and just roll with it, but otherwise?

That's definitely performance I could live with!

I worry that things like average speed (peak speed is pretty meaningless except to be able post pretty pictures of speed tests) and latency will suffer as they add subscribers, but only time will tell how that gets affected.

Most cell modem improvements have been focused around this, same for WiFi: trying to divide up available spectrum so that more transceivers can be online and maintain simultaneous connections in the same geographics.

Hopefully they've taken this into account.

And hopefully, the effect will be something along the lines of service in 'dense' areas being less performant than terrestrial connections and so doesn't become a preferred option, leaving more 'bandwidth' (literally) for users in less dense areas.
 

Brian_B

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That's definitely performance I could live with!
It's a mixed bag, to be honest.

The speed is - fantastic. Being able to watch a 4K streaming movie is wonderful. Not having to wait all weekend for a new game to download is awesome.

But...

The drop outs are hella annoying. You don't really realize how important a steady connection is until you have to deal with one that isn't.

Thankfully, we hadn't canceled our DSL service. My work pays for our home internet, and I'm paying for the backup, which helps out.

I did program fallover on the Edgerouter - that doesn't really help. The outages are short enough that it might flip over, then flip right back... and anything that was streaming live gets disconnected twice in a row that way. I moved the switchover time out longer (1 min, or 6 consecutive ping losses over 10 sec), it almost never flips over now. I am guessing that switching between satellites something (maybe it's Windows, maybe the router, maybe the dish, idk) sees it as a total loss of internet, and then when it reconnects it resets the connection.

Apart from that, it's great, but that's a pretty big annoyance with the service right now. It's better than nothing, that's for sure. But until that issue gest fixed, it wouldn't necessarily be my first or only choice.

I was hoping that it was something dumb on my end and it would be an easy fix, but SpaceX has more or less confirmed it isn't. So now I'm hoping satellite density will cure the problem.
 
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