4k streaming is all the rage these days, partly due to a proliferation of streaming services.
When you're requirement is primarily high-quality video streaming, a data cap can be a deal breaker for many households.
Does Starlink have a Data Cap?
Starlink does not have a data cap for its service in any country it serves except France. The data cap introduced in France is not a hard data cap, but rather a deprioritization. In the USA and all other countries, Starlink offers unlimited internet.
The lack of a data cap was a major reason why I immediately signed up for Starlink internet as a beta user.
Here are some quick data on Starlink's speeds and allowable data in its various internet plans.
|SERVICE PACKAGE||Service Availability||Latency (ms)||Expected Download (Mbps)||Expected Upload (Mbps)||Allowable Data|
|RESIDENTIAL||≥99%||20-40||50-200||10-20||No Data Caps|
|BUSINESS||≥99%||20-40||100-350||10-40||No Data Caps|
|BUSINESS (CIRCULAR HARDWARE)||≥99%||20-40||100-300||10-40||No Data Caps|
|STARLINK FOR RVs||≥99%||20-40||50-200; 5-100*||10-20; 1-10*||No Data Caps|
|MARITIME||≥99%||<99ms||100-350||20-40||No Data Caps|
Starlink Advertised Speeds
Although the higher limit of download speeds for residential is 200 Mbps, a good Starlink speed you can expect is around 100 Mbps.
You can be confident that you're doing well as a Starlink user if your speed is around that.
Typical data caps of other Satellite Internet services
While Starlink does not have a data cap, other competing satellite internet providers do have a data cap.
|Internet Service||Data Cap/Month|
|Starlink||No Data Cap|
The unlimited data provided by Starlink motivated many users to switch from their current providers.
While technically Viasat and Hughesnet promise "unlimited" data, they do that in two tiers-high speed data and standard data.
You get high-speed data up to the data cap and standard data after that.
The speeds offered by Viasat and Hughesnet in the high-speed tier itself are much lower than Starlink and fixed broadband services.
Speeds in the standard data tier are practically unusable for most purposes.
According to Internet speed testing service Ookla, data from Q1 of 2022 shows that Starlink was more than 4 times faster than Viasat and Hughesnet in the USA.
|Internet Service||Median Speed|
|Starlink USA||90.55 Mbps|
Will Starlink ever introduce a Data Cap?
Starlink has announced that it will prioritize users who consume less than 250 GB/month in France from October 2022.
While Starlink also halved its prices along with this announcement, it came as a shocker to many users, especially the heavy data users.
It's important to understand that this is not a real data cap, but rather deprioritization when you exceed 250 GB use in a month.
This policy also helps users within the data limit get better service.
What is Deprioritization?
During peak hours, users who haven't exceeded the data threshold will get priority over those that have exceeded it.
Deprioritization is different from throttling. In throttling, your speed is bumped down permanently until the next billing cycle.
With deprioritization, you may experience slower speeds during peak hours (usually between 6:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M.) but you get the usual speed once the network decongests.
Several cellular internet providers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-mobile have deprioritization policies in place and the one by Starlink is similar.
Most users do not feel cellular deprioritization these days as the speed even when deprioritized is quite high.
Starlink already has deprioritization for Starlink RV and Starlink portability users by giving priority to Starlink residential customers during peak hours.
Deprioritization is likely to be felt more in areas where Starlink availability is low according to the Starlink availability map.
Those deprioritized will experience slower speeds and higher latency during peak hours.
This can make activities like 4k streaming and gaming on Starlink difficult.
Is 250 GB/Month Enough for a family?
According to a study by Openvault, the average US household consumes 514 GB of data every month.
Looking at it this way, 250 GB can feel a bit limiting. But remember that there's no throttling after 250 GB, only deprioritization.
Also, Starlink has this policy in place only in France, and not the USA.
None of this applies in any country other than France.
To make things better, Starlink lets you add 100 GB of extra data without deprioritization for €10.
Since the monthly charges in France have been halved from €100/month to €50/month, you can effectively consider the limit for deprioritization as 750 GB/month.
This is assuming you continue paying the €100/month like before.
How much actual streaming can you do with 750 GB?
If you are someone who watches 4k TV, this will translate to 107 hours of streaming a month.
This means you can stream 4k videos for 3 hours every day and will still have data left over without deprioritization.
In my opinion, 750 GB/month is likely to be more than enough for most households.
Finally, the question of whether Starlink will introduce a data cap in the USA in the future is only a matter of speculation.
If they set a high data limit per month (>1 TB), it shouldn't be a cause for concern for most people.
Does Starlink Throttle your Internet?
Although many users speculate that Starlink throttles internet speeds, the bottom line is that Starlink does not throttle your internet.
As a heavy user of Starlink, I constantly exceed 2 TB of data every month with my Starlink and never experienced any throttling.
So what's causing some users to experience slow speeds sometimes with Starlink?
Most users see lower speeds during peak hours when their location gets congested with every other Starlink user starting to download/upload heavily.
This congestion is likely to decrease with time as Starlink launches more satellites.
Starlink RV users and users who are roaming from their home cell are likely to see lower speeds during peak hours and choppy connections.
This is due to those users being deprioritized over stationary users (like Starlink residential) who are in their home cells.
Starlink RV since its launch in May 2022, received around 30,000 orders in a matter of three weeks.
These 30,000 plus new Starlink RV users are spread across the country and share their internet with other stationary Starlink users (Residential/Business).
Starlink RV is also being opted by people who're looking to skip the waitlist for residential Starlink.
This additional network load has also led to a bit more lowering of speed for other Starlink users.
Stormy/Snowy weather is another situation when Starlink users experience slow speeds.
Although Starlink antenna has a feature to melt snow, most users see a 20-30% drop in speeds during bad weather.
If you have bad speeds all day, there could be other fundamental issues with your Starlink setup like a bad cable or poor line of sight for the dish.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is Starlink faster than HughesNet?
Starlink is much faster than HughesNet as evident in the speed test results released by various internet speed testing services such as Ookla. The data shows that the median speed of Starlink internet is around 4 times faster than Hughesnet's.
Is Starlink faster than Fiber?
No, Starlink is not faster than fiber internet and will never be. Starlink internet is meant for people who're living in rural areas without access to fiber internet. Starlink is a big upgrade over traditional satellite internet services, but it can never match the speeds of fiber internet.
Is Starlink good for Home Internet?
Starlink is a good choice for home internet if you are living in a rural area disconnected from any fiber internet services. It can also be a good option if you live in an RV and move around constantly.