back to article Starlink's rocket speeds hit a 50 megabit wall for large downloads

Starlink users in the UK claim their download speeds appear to be getting capped at about 50Mbit/sec if they try to retrieve large files from the web. Some reckon this amounts to mis-selling, saying they are not being provided with the advertised speed for the service. In a Reddit thread highlighted by a reader, British …

  1. John Robson Silver badge


    Can't say I noticed this when I was last on a starlink network, and I had several fairly sizeable downloads to do (a few ISOs and couple of other bits of software).

    Maybe I just wasn't sat glued to the bitrate, or maybe it was just so much better than the 1-2 Mbit we used to get there that I was grateful that it worked at all.

    The UK has a few gateways, but Aberdeenshire is probably not the extent of his region since only three are known to be live:

    From StarLink Insider:

    • Chalfont Grove (live)
    • Fawley (unknown)
    • Goonhilly (live)
    • Hoo (construction pending)
    • Isle of Man (live)
    • Morn Hill (unknown)
    • Wherstead (construction ongoing)
    • Woodwalton (unknown)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is a radio service

    Just like 3G/4G/5G they can promise great speeds, and they can deliver them under ideal conditions, but once the real world kicks in (and that means "enough customers to be viable") you get contention and/or managed data rate throttling.

    Sadly I found VM do the same on the cable network for VPN traffic down to under 1MB/sec but suspiciously don't mention that. They have less of an excuse.

    Now using City Fibre via a small local ISP and way better speeds and service. Of course, had the UK rolled out fibre in a planned manner, rather than Openreach doing so ONLY when there is competition, and also doing their best to crush that by predatory pricing, the need for Starlink would be very little in the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is a radio service

      City Fibre aren't the quickest people. During lockdown they dug up our road to install fibre. There's a little access hole in the street right outside my place and I can see a fibre cable inside it, but their website still claims they have no plans to provide fibre to anyone in my street.

      They have no contact information so I can't find out when they plan to start providing service to ISPs.

    2. informed

      Re: It is a radio service

      VM have had throttling in place for years. Sure, if I go really mad and transfer many, many GB of data it kicks in but considering the throttled speed is still pretty good, I don't notice it.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: It is a radio service

        I used to suffer daily with VM's throttling even though always denied that they were throttling and in fact everything was unlimited (lies).

        If I left things, such as a torrent download, going during the day before 8pm then my broadband would be hobbled within an hour or two until it was barely serving up web pages. Then, miraculously, around 8pm this fixed itself. Every time. I found that if I throttled the torrent download to a low rate then this hobbling didn't happen. Which was very annoying when I needed to download an .ISO image or similar size from the Internet/Torrent.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: It is a radio service

          To be fair I had an issue with cable connectivity which was almost metronomic, and was nothing to do with throttling (although I nearly throttled them)

          Every evening (10:30 ish from memory) the connection would outright fail, and resume early in the morning (7 ish).

          Took several visits from engineers in the daytime before I actually got a network engineer who understood the logs I had and we tracked down a short section of cable with a tight radius bend in the green cabinet - the core conductor had fractured, and thermal expansion meant that it connected OK during the day, but when it cooled overnight the fracture separated and the signal was lost.

  3. Little Mouse Silver badge

    200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

    Reddit users who are moaning because downloads are slowed to a "mere" 50mb/s after they've already downloaded 15GB in one sitting can cry into their beer if they want, but they won't be getting a whole lot of sympathy from me.

    "Fair use" has been a thing since broadband speeds came into effect, so what does the users' contract with Starlink have to say on the matter?

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

      "Fair use" to me means allowing users to download however much they want without capping in the dead of night when there are few or no other users on their 'network spur' if it would be possible to deliver it at those speeds were it not for capping being imposed.

      If the T&Cs do say "15GB then it gets capped" fair enough.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

        Looking through:

        The AUP has this clause:

        "EXCESSIVE USE OF NETWORK RESOURCES. SpaceX reserves the right to engage in reasonable network management to protect the overall network, including analyzing traffic patterns to optimize services and preventing the distribution of viruses or other malicious code. SpaceX reserves the right to immediately restrict, suspend, or terminate Services without notice in order to protect the network or minimize congestion caused by unauthorized use."

        The FUP:

        "Traffic Neutrality. We treat internet traffic equally, without discrimination based on content, sender, application or service. Network management practices are deployed based on technical requirements for specific categories of traffic. These practices are applied in an “application-agnostic” manner, meaning that the treatment of traffic is independent of the content data."

        "Distributing Data Based on Service Plan. We seek to distribute data among our users in a fair and equitable manner by (1) implementing network management policies when the demand for network resources actually exceeds supply," [item 2 is the priority service]

        "Starlink seeks to distribute Standard data among our users in a fair and equitable manner. If bandwidth patterns consistently exceed what is allocated to a typical residential user, Starlink may take network management measures, such as temporarily reducing a customer’s speeds, to prevent or mitigate congestion of the Services. Bandwidth intensive applications, such as streaming videos, gaming, or downloading large files are most likely to be impacted by such actions."

        The Specifications:

        "Actual speeds may be lower than expected speeds during times of high usage. Performance varies based on location, time of day and the precedence Starlink gives your data in the network based on your Service Plan."

        "Starlink users typically experience download speeds between 25 and 220 Mbps, with a majority of users experiencing speeds over 100 Mbps"

        So nothing explicitly says that there is a 15GB cap on single downloads... it's a rather substantial amount of data to be pushing.

        Maybe at 2 am is when all the businesses etc who pay for priority kick off their backups?

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

        One person's "dead of night" is another's "peak time".

        All bandwidth is limited somewhere by some part of the network. The smart -- professional -- user should be able to manage their bandwidth usage to make optimal use of it. Not just grab as much as possible and then gripe when there's never enough.

        1. Cybersaber

          Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

          That isn't what the OP _seems_ to be describing, though I leave room for the fact that the OP may indeed be downloading things from a source in a zone that IS congested at the time that it's off-hours in his zone. Doesn't sound like it, but it's at least plausible.

          <Barely resists making jokes about the OP downloading less Japanese Anime>

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

          One person's "dead of night" is another's "peak time".

          Best euphemism for porn ever.

      3. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

        I would love to know what the user is doing that requires 200Mb/s for extended periods of time.

        Secondly, if they are using Starlink it's usually because local providers can't provide a good service and Starlink presents the best option. Why are they then complaining when they are already getting a service over and above anything else that is available, that just sounds ungrateful and full of self entitlement.

        Hater just want to hate....

        Just for info : I get 12Mb on download and 0.8 MB/s on upload and yet I can still download several ISOs without it becoming a major problem. You just learn to play as best you can with the hand your are dealt.

      4. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

        Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

        There is also the issue of how many satellites are in view at any given time. During a long download the total available bandwidth could be changing as satellites go in and out of sight. It could also cause rerouting through different ground stations with different ground link capacity. Every time the routing changes the system has to reoptimize.

    2. johnfbw

      Re: 200mb/s for "10minutes or so" = ~15GB

      Who the hell is downloading 15GB regularly enough to notice a cap? I can't remember the last time I downloaded that amount of data - including downloading ISOs. Only stupidly large COD updates get that big - but frankly once every 6 months I have to leave a download running for 10mins capped by MS - so what?

  4. thondwe

    "Design Feature"

    Wondering if it's a design feature, you're tracking moving satellites - how long does it try to hang on to one, before if decides to switch for another

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: "Design Feature"

      I don't notice the switch, even during video calls...

      The satellites aren't overhead for very long - orbital period is about 90 minutes, and that's covering a distance of ~24k miles, they'll only be in view for a few hundred miles of that...

      So let's say they're each visible for about 2% of their orbit... that's about 2 minutes of visibility - and they'll not be used for that entire duration, they need to be found and tracked before they are used, and I don't imagine that performance is as good at low angles of elevation.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: "Design Feature"

        I was intrigued, so I ran ping for fifteen minutes against a device behind a remote starlink connection from a colo centre.

        Out of 1000 packets sent I got just two with a ping more than 100ms (103 and 115 respectively), and no loss.

        The average was 45ms, minimum was 21.8ms, only 6% (57) took 67ms or more (67ms is simply the average plus the minimum) and even those averaged just 77ms. So whilst the tail of slow packets is obviously longer than the "head" of very fast packets (which has a physical limit) it's sparse, and not stupidly long (high frequency traders and twitch gamers might want to pay for priority, I don't know if that has any affect on latency).

        There isn't an obvious pattern in the latency data, though there are two clear sections which are a bit slower than the surrounding traffic - 417 - 431 (85ms) and 432 - 446 (62ms), though they are followed by a good patch (twenty with an average of 32ms)

        So it wouldn't surprise me if we were talking as little as 15 seconds on some connections.

        Satellite Map has a pretty nice live tracker, and watching that for a few minutes might give a little insight.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Design Feature"

      well, obviously the sat gets further and further away, so the signal gets weaker and weaker... pioneer 10 ahoy ;)

  5. Fursty Ferret

    Sounds like the epitome of fair use

    You get ~23GB in a single burst before it slows down (and it's a bit rich to call 50Mb slow when most of the country is on less). How often are people downloading more than this on a regular basis?

    I draw m'lud to EE, which caps you to 0.5Mb when they decide that you're being a bit unreasonable.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "additional network management measures as necessary"

    (...) you suckers, should have read the terms.

    That said, when I read 'starts off well over 150Mb for the first 10 minutes or so' - I'm pretty sure some people (nothing new!) take a piss. A full history of all linux distros in 4K...

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: "additional network management measures as necessary"

      Upvoted for the clue that those “Linux ISOs” that account for 90% of peer-to-peer traffic are the kind of thing that can be watched in 4K.

  7. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Good deal

    I believe Starlink customers are already getting a world-beating deal with broadband speeds from virtually anywhere on the planet. It's obvious Starlink is limiting download speeds to allow more customers to use the service (and fatten their checkbook) so grumbling about datacaps isn't fair.

    There are only a limited number of satellites up there with a limited amount of broadband capacity. If everyone starts download 100GB files just for the heck of it I think it's fair for Starlink to throttle people's connection.

  8. xyz Silver badge

    It should be remembered...

    That Starlink isn't the end of the chain. When I connect, the starlink ground station (Madrid in my case) connects to some random ISP, so throttling might be down to that ISP. I don't really know, because only my GF tends to throttle me.

  9. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

    Caveat Emptor and all that

    The problem with people who whine about the service they get is that they never seem to bother to find out what they pay for.*

    All of this is no different than people whining about not getting up to 8Mbps on their ADSL1 service all those years ago. Advertising "up to 8Mbps" didn't make any difference. People just saw 8Mbps and thought that's what they should be getting. Line lengths and contention ratios didn't mean squat to these people. They saw 8Mbps on the advertising and no amount of terms and conditions would convince them they shouldn't get 8Mbps all the time.

    So if your service is described as "25 to 100Mb" you have no room to complain if you get 50Mbps throughput. That's very definitely somewhere between 25 and 100Mbps

    *This is probably why the users of free services are always the ones whining the loudest

  10. imanidiot Silver badge

    Uhhmmm, small minds?

    "There is no universe in which my entire geographical area, which consists of 100,000 people, needs to be restricted at 4am""

    You're "entire geographical area" when viewed from space (if this person is somewhere in England) probably covers the entirety of the UK and a good chuck of western European mainland. The world is a lot bigger than this person seems to think.

  11. _Elvi_

    Every ISP throttles ..

    Just because it is one of Muskee's product offering, does not mean it magically will never throttle.

    ( Geez.. Apple\Muskee people are SOOOOO Clueless.. I mean .. Like wow .. )

    1. Ace2 Silver badge

      Re: Every ISP throttles ..

      WTF does this have to do with Apple?

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Every ISP throttles ..

      > Every ISP throttles

      In what universe?

  12. druck Silver badge

    Complaints in writing

    Starlink has instructions online for how to complain about its service

    And does this result in the emanation of a poop emoji?

  13. karlkarl Silver badge

    Haha. It could be the spaceyear 3098 and we will still be capped to 90s ADSL speeds via an overly zealous fair usage policy.

  14. dtaht

    bufferbloat on starlink breaks all known congestion controls

    I have been trying to point out for 4+ years now that the scheduler and bufferbloat on starlink breaks all the congestion controls we have on the internet. I would hope, actually, that the rate cap actually implements something sane, but people have seemingly forgotten how to take a packet capture.

    Some caps:

    Me ranting:

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: bufferbloat on starlink breaks all known congestion controls

      Starlink satellites dont have the bandwidth to handle many users at once.

      If you must use satellite links, use one of the other options that know what they are doing.

  15. Orv Silver badge

    We contacted Starlink via its SpaceX parent company for a response to these customer claims, and we will update the article if we get an answer.

    It's just gonna be a poop emoji.

  16. Marty McFly Silver badge

    The bloom is falling off the rose...

    When I first got Starlink I was delighted to actually stream in 4K. Coming from a rural America 6mb/s DSL this was absolutely amazing.

    Now I am lucky if 1080p streaming doesn't buffer. Usually it down checks to 720p. Forget about 4K, that just doesn't work anymore. Sure the speed test reports lightening fast speeds, but the real-world experience is vastly different. At least with the DSL I knew what I had. It would do 1080p consistently. Starlink seems like such a toss up as to what I will get.

    Color me disappointed for the $120/mo.

    1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: The bloom is falling off the rose...

      Latency! It's Satellite! Streaming is highly affected by latency.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: The bloom is falling off the rose...

        Streaming shouldn't care about latency (within reason), it might care about jitter - but that's why the system buffers whilst you're streaming... you don't download each frame "just in time", you download a few tens of seconds ahead of where you are in the file.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: The bloom is falling off the rose...

      The starlink system is way over hyped. If you look at the numbers each satellite can only hadle a few hundred users before the bandwidth limitations of the system make ADSL landlines look fast.

  17. DS999 Silver badge

    Lots of ISPs do this

    They have "burst" speeds that are limited only by your speed of connection to look good in a speedtest and handle the bursts of data common to 99% of users, but they limit the bandwidth over longer periods of time as an alternative to hard usage caps.

    As someone pointed out earlier even for a short period getting 200 Mbps is more than fast enough to e.g. download ISOs or big Windows/game updates. If you regularly download the Library of Congress and are going to whine about have your speed throttled (but still more than adequate for several 4K Amazon/Netflix streams so hardly bringing you back to dialup days) maybe you should consider paying for a commercial service with contractual guarantees.

  18. Mr. V. Meldrew


    ...The paper tigers!

    As usual OFCOM won't intervene on individual matters, they just put your complaint in the round filing cabinet AKA wastebin.

    Time to f**k them off and get a truly independent org with a big stick to reign in these liars.

  19. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not discrimination

    I don't think they'll find this is discrimination. The type of discrimination these policies were targetting (at least here in the states) was when Comcast began falsifying RST ("Reset") packets to close bittorrent connections (which also awkwardly triggered killing some people's remote desktop and VPN sessions) claiming this was equivalent to throttling (no, forcing a connection closed is not the same as throttling); some providers began slowing down everyone's video on demand services except their own to encourage uptake of their own services; AT&T thought they would try to charge Youtube Netflix, etc. for access to their network (... umm, not how it works guys, youtube does pay at those peering points just like you do); you had providers that intentionally interfered with voip to encourage use of their own phone service. Stuff like that.

    Having a full-speed bucket then throttling after that bucket empties (regardless of traffic), you may not like it but it is not discriminatory. Personally, I'd probably notice but not complain; I'm getting 32mpbs down and 4mbps (40/5 DSL but a long line length) myself. And the price is over $80 a month -- the phone company here took "option B" in the telecom act that deregulating bell companies in the 1980s, they do not compete outside their local market but maintained their landline monopoly, no 3rd party DSL here!

  20. gcarter

    So the ABZ country boy is downloading entire seasons of "Scottish Midget Porn" and is now bitchin its been slowed down?!

    I suppose those country boyz don't have much patience when it cums to getting their fix!

    What will be hilarious, is when the Starlink admins pick up his complaint, look at the logs and see the nomenclature (scotty_midget_pr0n_s01e01.mkv)

    of the cultured content he is downloading at the time of the "throttling event" .

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