SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation is set to bring broadband internet access to rural areas and other harder-to-reach destinations, but what will the latency be like? Fast enough for competitive matches in CS:GO or Rainbow Six: Siege, according to CEO Elon Musk.
“It will be a pretty good experience because it’ll be very low latency,” said Musk during Monday’s SATELLITE 2020 opening day keynote (via ArsTechnica). “We’re targeting latency below 20 milliseconds, so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level, like that’s the threshold for the latency.”
That sort of latency isn’t too far off from your typical, fixed broadband connection. According to a report by the FCC, cable, fiber, and similar services range from 12 ms to 37 ms. The investigation also pointed out that traditional satellite-based broadband services feature latencies as high as 594 ms to 612 ms, so Starlink looks to be a dramatic improvement.
Bandwidth shouldn’t be an issue, either – for low-density areas, at least. While that’s a “very complex question,” Musk said that users “will be able to watch high-def movies, play video games, and do all the things they want to do without noticing speed.” But it doesn’t sound like Starlink would be able to manage in areas such as major cities.
“The challenge for anything that is space-based is that the size of the cell is gigantic… it’s not good for high-density situations,” Musk explained. “We’ll have some small number of customers in LA. But we can’t do a lot of customers in LA because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough.”