Starlink gets fair use policy — will start throttling in congested areas

SpaceX’s satellite Internet service Starlink will start throttling customers’ connection speeds if they consume over 1TB of data per month during the day and live in an area with plenty of other users.

First reported by The Verge, the company has added a fair usage policy section to its website, outlining how it manages its network traffic to balance capacity and demand.

“Starlink is a finite resource that will continue to grow as we launch additional satellites,” SpaceX explained.

“To serve the greatest number of people with high-speed internet, we must manage the network to balance Starlink supply with user demand.”

The company said it sought to distribute data among its users in a “fair and equitable” manner by implementing network management policies when the demand for network resources exceeded supply.

SpaceX explained that each service plan is allocated a certain amount of data per month with “Priority Access” speeds.

For typical Starlink residential users, this applies to the first 1TB used between 07:00 and 23:00. The hours outside these times do not count towards Priority Access data.

Business customers with a fixed connection can choose between 500GB, 1TB, or 3TB monthly Priority Access limits during the same peak hours.

The expected performance for the various Starlink packages under Priority Access is shown in the table below.

Once the respective allocations have been consumed, Starlink downgrades the customer’s connection to “Basic Access”.

SpaceX said that users with Basic Access might experience slower speeds and reduced performance compared to Priority Access during periods of network congestion.

It did not specify how much speeds could be reduced for residential fixed customers, but said it might result in degradation or unavailability of certain third-party services or applications.

“Bandwidth-intensive applications, such as streaming videos, are most likely to be impacted,” SpaceX said.

Residential fixed customers throttled to Basic Access can pay extra for continued Priority Access, charged at $0.25 (R4.46, excl. VAT) per gigabyte.

All business customers with fixed packages have their download and upload speeds during peak hours throttled to 1Mbps once their allocations run out.

For additional Priority Access data, they will have to pay $1 (R17.82) per extra GB.

The tables below show the default Priority Access data limits for the various Starlink packages and the cost of buying additional Priority Access data.

However, SpaceX emphasised that areas with no congestion or lower usage should not show any difference in performance between Priority and Basic Access.

That means the soft cap is unlikely to impact customers in deeply rural, sparsely-populated areas who use the service precisely because they have no alternatives.

Starlink for RV users don’t get any Priority Access data, but commercial and premium/maritime customers with mobile Starlink packages get 1TB and 5TB, respectively.

Once their Priority Access data runs out, speeds are also throttled to 1Mbps, but they have the option to pay $2 (R35.65) per extra GB of Priority Access.

Now read: Uncapped 4G and 5G battle in South Africa

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Starlink gets fair use policy — will start throttling in congested areas