Starlink has been a game changer when it comes to providing broadband internet to underserved areas. But if you are considering Starlink as your internet service provider, it helps to know the pros and cons. In this article, I’m going to cover the biggest disadvantages of Starlink.
It’s important to note that many of these criticisms are my own subjective opinion. The priority that you or someone else places on these factors can be different. The goal here isn’t to change your mind on anything, it’s to simply inform you of some of the issues that other customers (including me) have experienced.
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By far, the biggest disadvantage of Starlink is customer service and communication. I get a lot of emails and comments from my readers on the subject of customer service. Most people are simply wondering, “How do I contact Starlink?” It should be a simple process, as it is with any other business, but Starlink makes it complicated.
Whether it’s a question about sales, availability, technical specs, etc., the unfortunate fact is that Starlink doesn’t provide any kind of public communication method. You can’t call them, email them, or even send a message on their website unless you are an active subscriber.
Even when you do buy the service, official communication only happens through an online support ticket system. Everything, from simple billing questions to tech support, happens online through your account portal. Customers have complained about slow response times to these tickets. In some cases, customers wait multiple weeks for a response from Starlink, even for a major issue like service being down.
Broadband infrastructure in the US leaves a lot to be desired. There are many people in rural areas that aren’t covered even by DSL or cell service. When Starlink launched in 2021, demand was high. Even now in 2023, demand is much higher than network capacity. The limited availability due to network capacity is another big disadvantage of Starlink.
If you live in an area that is full, where Starlink isn’t accepting new orders, you’ll be put on the waitlist. Customers on the waitlist can wait months and even years before capacity expands. As Starlink launches more satellites, capacity grows. But the demand has far outpaced supply, so many customers are stuck waiting around with no other internet options.
Starlink is more expensive than most kinds of internet. For the Residential plan, you will pay $120/month, with an up-front equipment cost of $599. Starlink isn’t much more expensive than other satellite internet services, but it is much more expensive than fiber, cable, 5G, etc.
Other than the outright price, you also have to think about periodic increases. Starlink has increased their prices 2 times since launching the service. That means that, over about a 2 year time period since launching, the price of the service has gone up about 20%. It’s likely prices will change again regularly in the future.
Another disadvantage, which is related to our previous point about limited availability, is the network congestion issues that Starlink customers experience during peak hours. Congestion is especially a problem in areas where there are a lot of Starlink users. During peak hours, from 5pm-11pm, users may see drastically slower speeds as the bandwidth supply is quickly used up by all the Starlink users.
I’ve previously covered the slowing average Starlink speeds, so I won’t dive too deep into the details. But the issue comes down to supply and demand. Until the Starlink satellite constellation is complete, there is a very limited amount of bandwidth to go around. Starlink users will compete with each other, and this can lead to very slow speeds during peak hours.
Complicated DIY Installation
When you order Starlink, you are 100% responsible for proper installation. Starlink does sell mounting accessories, but unless you can find an independent satellite installer, it’s a DIY job. If you are even somewhat handy, most installations won’t be difficult. But for the average person, mounting a satellite dish to a roof is a complicated endeavor.
The tricky part about Starlink is that it needs a very wide, clear view of the sky. Trees and other obstructions can cause performance issues. Starlink has an obstruction checker tool in their app to help, but every customer will need to verify that potential installation locations are free from obstructions for optimal performance.
Weather Sensitivity and Reliability
Starlink is satellite internet, and as a result, it can be affected by weather. Heavy rain, snow, and ice can knock out your signal for minutes at a time. In the heaviest downpours or snow, you could lose internet for hours. In 2023, where more and more people are working from home, that can be a big disadvantage.
Besides weather outages, sometimes the Starlink network has issues that result in downtime. These outages aren’t common, but do happen periodically. Satellite internet in general, not just Starlink, won’t be as reliable as fiber, cable, or other terrestrial broadband options.
Being an Early Adopter
The last big disadvantage on my list is the penalty that comes with being an early adopter to new technology. This one is sort of a broad disadvantage that takes into consideration most of the previous points that I’ve made on this list.
People who signed up for Starlink in the earliest months experienced a lot of network reliability issues, instability, and performance fluctuations. Even today, the service is relatively new. Changes are still being made to the specifications and policies.
One good example is the recent implementation of a soft data cap in the US. The soft data cap is an attempt by Starlink to help with the congestion issues mentioned earlier on this list. If you were a Starlink customer during this change, it may seem like a roller coaster ride. The service was sold as unlimited, but now changes are being made to account for performance issues. Being an early adopter means you are purchasing a service that isn’t completely polished yet.
Although I’ve outlined several big disadvantages of Starlink, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Starlink is providing high speed, low latency internet to areas of the world that previously didn’t have it. Even with the current issues, most customers are grateful to have more competition available.
The disadvantages won’t offset the advantages for most potential customers. If you are considering Starlink, take a look at your current internet options, and prioritize the factors above. I believe it’s important to have all the information, both pros and cons, in order to make the best decision as a consumer.
Do you have any criticisms that you would add to the list? Let me know in the comment section below!