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 internet have a data cap?
Does Starlink have a Data Cap?
Starlink has implemented a data cap or fair use policy since February 2023 in USA and Canada. This is not a hard data cap, but rather a deprioritization, which Starlink terms "priority access". Starlink residential (fixed) users get 1 TB of priority access every month according to this policy.
What this means is that your data caps or priority access will vary depending on your Starlink plan.
Here's a breakdown of the data cap for every Starlink plan.
Starlink Residential: Data Cap/Fair Use Policy
- You get 1 TB of priority access data every month.
- Beyond that, you need to pay $0.25 per GB of priority access data.
- If you don't have priority access data left, you're put in "basic access" which is unlimited.
- You consume your priority access data only during peak hours (7 AM to 11 PM).
Once you exhaust your priority access data for the month, during peak hours you get a lower priority over other users who still have priority access data left.
This lower-priority data is called "basic access".
The average US household consumes 536 GB of data every month according to a study by Openvault in 2022.
Even if you are a 3-person household that uses the internet heavily (e.g. streams 4k videos daily), your monthly consumption is still likely to be under 2 TB.
What this means is that in addition to the $90 (120 for low-capacity regions)/month recurring fee, you'll have to pay $250 extra for 1 extra TB of priority access data.
How Slow is Basic Access Data?
Since the fair use policy uses deprioritization, after exhausting the priority access data for the month you'll get access to "basic access" only.
Firstly, basic access applies only during peak hours (7 AM- 11 PM).
The basic access speeds that you get are going to depend heavily on the cell congestion in your area.
A good way to know if you might experience cell congestion is to see if there's a waitlist in your area for Starlink.
If there's a long waitlist, like in many southern and midwest states of the USA, your speeds will likely suffer a bit.
With basic access, you're prioritized the same as Starlink RV, Starlink best-effort users in your area.
This means your speeds during peak hours are going to be similar to theirs.
Is Starlink's Fair Use Policy/Data Cap Highly Limiting?
Starlink's fair use policy is likely to speed up its service for the average user by deprioritizing the heavy data users.
You can also schedule data-heavy tasks such as cloud backup for non-peak hours (11 PM -7 AM).
Starlink RV/Portability/Best Effort: Data Cap/Fair Use Policy
The new fair use policy doesn't apply to Starlink RV, Portability, and Best effort users as they only get basic access data all day.
You also cannot buy priority access data if you're in one of these plans.
This policy makes sense because as a Starlink residential user, you'll want priority over Starlink users who're temporarily in your area (RV/Portability).
Starlink Business: Data Cap/Fair Use Policy
Starlink has not yet rolled out the details for its new Business 500,1000,3000 business plans.
For current Starlink business users, the data cap is set as 1 TB/month similar to residential users.
What is confirmed is that additional priority access will cost $1/GB for business users, which is 4 times more than that for residential users.
Typical Data Caps of Other Satellite Internet Services
While Starlink does have a data cap, other competing satellite internet providers have much more restrictive data caps.
|Internet Service||Data Cap/Month|
|Starlink||1 TB (residential)|
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 Q3 of 2022 shows that Starlink still reings as the supreme option compared to other services like Viasat and Hughesnet in the USA.
|Internet Service||Median Speed|
|Starlink USA||90.55 Mbps|
How Does Data Deprioritization Work?
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 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 likely to be 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.
How Much Data is Enough for a Family?
According to a study by Openvault, the average US household consumes 536 GB of data every month.
How much actual streaming can you do with 1 TB?
If you watch 4k videos, this translates to 142 hours of streaming a month.
This means you can stream 4k videos for around 5 hours every day and will still have data left over without deprioritization.
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.