Starlink, the pros and cons.
I guess you’re here because you’ve probably heard people raving about Starlink and you want to check out what the inside scoop is.
Should you go for it and try it out? Will you really be able to make it work? What are the risks of trying to use Starlink for your connectivity, will it be as reliable and as amazing as people proclaim or will it just be another disappointment?
We’re going to answer these questions, and more, to help you decide on whether to take the leap of faith and join the Starlink posse.
The event WiFi challenge
Let’s start off by stating that it’s no coincidence that event WiFi has become more challenging over the past 5 years. The quality of service hasn’t really improved much for event organisers, despite better technology becoming available.
Traders are still complaining over social media about poor connectivity and the loss of revenue that it brings is understandably frustrating. Do you want to know the real reason that event WiFi isn’t improving?
It’s because the incremental improvements in technology have been surpassed by the increasing need for connectivity. Think about it, we consume way more data, and use lots more devices.
Today, we don’t just need WiFi to take payments, we also want it to watch our football team play important matches, post about our business on social media, keep up with the latest group messages – and perform a whole heap more tasks whilst we’re at events. We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to event WiFi.
Fact: There’s only so much available connectivity at a site.
It’s a fact that if you get enough devices trying to stream enough data within a space then sooner or later you’ll encounter contention issues. The network just won’t cope.
But what’s really going on behind the scenes to cause these contention issues? It’s not always what it seems and to understand this, we need to discuss both Internet and WiFi.
When traders use Starlink as their connectivity, they’re using it for both an internet connection and for WiFi service. Think of the internet as the part between the Satellite up above and Starlink, and the WiFi as the bit between Starlink and your device.
Starlink for Internet
Let’s first consider the pros and cons of Starlink as an internet service.
Pros: Starlink is like the modern version of 5G. A new internet connection solution that hasn’t been over-saturated. Currently, it’s performing really well as an internet option because not everybody is using it. (You won’t find consumers walking around with a Starlink to supply their personal phone.)
Because there are fewer Starlinks users than 4G/5G, it allows traders less contention for their devices.
Cons: Nobody yet knows the capacity of Starlink. We haven’t yet seen Satellite bandwidth run out, but there will be a point when it will occur.
As the adoption of Starling increases, the satellites may not be able to cope with the increasing number of users, and if consumers can get their hands on a mobile version of Starlink that will compete with the satellite services then we may really be in trouble – back to where we are now with 4G/5G options.
The only way to guarantee your own dedicated bandwidth, without contention is still to have your own pipe in. By this we mean a dedicated fixed fibre.
Starlink for WiFi
Starlink is not only being used by traders as an internet connection at events but also for local WiFi. WiFi is the method of distributing the internet connection from Starlink itself to your device. And it comes with pros and cons.
Pros: A single solution for internet and WiFi can be a simple, uncomplicated option for traders. One piece of kit, one technology to learn. It if works seamlessly then this is a winning solution.
Cons: Traders won’t consider the fact that if lots of traders have Starlink, and use it for WiFi, then contention issues will surface. That’s because it’s all about capacity here too.
At a recent large event, we counted 1800 + networks competing for the same WiFi bandwidth across the site. Satellites can only provide so much bandwidth, and what traders don’t know is that Starlinks are all set to use the same standard channel.
It’s a bit like all site radios being tuned to the same frequency – when everyone talks at the same time then no information will get through, and the solution simply won’t work. What you really want is to be on your own channel, but this isn’t so easily done, requires more technology and a deeper understanding of network communications.
Heading for a problem?
In the current environment where traders have the opportunity to use Starlink to ensure the reliability of their business, it’s hardly surprising that the adoption rates are increasing.
But Starlink should be used with caution, because if adoption rates become too high then we all risk running into the same issues down the line as we have with 4G/5G. An attractive solution becomes short-lived. It’s inevitable that we’re heading toward a Starlink problem. There’s a finite capacity and a finite amount of nodes.
But what are the alternatives?
At Wireless Solutions, we’re already working to implement Starlink best practices that will future-proof our event Wifi solution. The good news is that this means that event WiFi services will rise above the problems that traders will encounter, and avoid the contention issues, including:
- Using Starlink as an Internet connection only, not a WiFi solution.
- Our WiFi network is controlled by a wireless LAN in our network core, which scans the network and distributes the connectivity to client devices via the least restricted channels.
- Prioritising essential traffic, and reducing the noise from non-essential traffic to ensure that critical event comms are maintained.
Get in touch
We’re always happy to chat, so feel free to get in touch to discuss ensuring trouble-free connectivity for your event.