We tested Starlink side-by-side with a more affordable satellite service in South Africa

MyBroadband tested an existing geostationary satellite internet connection side-by-side with Starlink, and the superiority of low Earth orbit-based broadband connections was clear.

We previously tested MorClick’s satellite Internet service on a remote bushveld farm with impressive results.

For home users, MorClick offers packages with download speeds up to 20Mbps and upload speeds up to 3Mbps.

When we did our initial test, this was the only reasonable option for connectivity on this farm, as there is no mobile network signal and no chance of an FNO installing fibre to this remote location.

No wireless Internet service providers operate in the area, so a satellite connection truly is the only option.

MorClick charges R1,299 for a 20/3Mbps uncapped product without a voice line on a 24-month contract.

A once-off setup cost of R2,499 also applies, while installation costs will vary depending on the location.

The connection is generally used to communicate with family when you are on the farm and is sometimes used to stream sports events, for which it works pretty well.

Over the last few years, the owners have often worked remotely while staying on the farm, especially during Covid-19.

One of the most significant downsides of the satellite connection is the high latency, making live communications difficult.

While it is possible to do a WhatsApp call or Google meeting over this connection, it often results in people talking over each other or awkward silences where you have to wait for the other parties to reply.

MyBroadband recently revisited the farm and used a Starlink test unit provided by IT-LEC to see if it would be a better solution.

Starlink antenna

The ISP imported and managed Starlink services on behalf of its customers for several months before being served with a cease and desist letter from Icasa over regulatory issues with SpaceX.

IT-LEC charged R15,000 for the Starlink kit and a monthly fee of R1,799, which includes the roaming option that enables the service in South Africa.

Due to its standoff with Icasa, IT-LEC has moved customers over to Starsat Africa, a company registered in Mozambique, which has already approved Starlink.

As a result, the multiple thousands of South African Starlink customers who already have their kits can still use the service.

The Starlink setup on the farm was as easy as any other location, as there was plenty of open space to place the dish without obstructions.

The router was placed in the kitchen and powered by the solar backup system installed in the house.

It took a minute or two for the dish to orient itself, and the connection was online.

Throughout the weekend, we used and compared both connections, and it was clear that there was one superior connection.

The two connections are nearly indistinguishable in general browsing, but multiple WhatsApp calls were made over the weekend, and the difference is night and day.

Calls on the Starlink system still have more latency than a regular voice call, but the experience is closer to a regular call than those via geostationary satellite.

Starlink router

Speed tests done on both connections also show a major difference.

The MorClick system consistently provided speeds close to the advertised 20/3 Mbps, with latency between 800ms and 1.3s.

The Starlink connection typically gave us download speeds closer to 100Mbps, although we did have some slower tests on the local MyBroadband servers as Starlink does not peer locally.

The slowest upload speed we measured was 6Mbps, but it was usually over 20Mbps.

These significantly faster speeds will make a difference if you have to move larger files or data sets over the Internet.

Morclick antenna

The most significant difference was in the measured latency, which peaked at 380ms throughout all our testing.

The latency was usually around 200ms, reaching close to 100ms in a few tests.

This makes a lot of live communications possible, and most people will not even notice that you are in a very remote location.

The MorClick service is less expensive in both initial costs and the monthly subscription, but Starlink has the added benefit of being portable and having higher speeds and lower latency.

The MorClick dish must also be permanently mounted and aimed at the geostationary satellite.

The Starlink system can be packed in a bag and deployed anywhere within a few minutes, making it ideal for camping trips and the like.

In addition, a Starlink subscription is available on a month-to-month basis and can be switched on and off as required, while MorClick’s service is subject to signing up for a long-term contract.

Now read: Vodacom announces big partnership with Amazon’s Starlink rival

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We tested Starlink side-by-side with a more affordable satellite service in South Africa