Starlink vs NBN: Which is Better for Mobile Data?

Starlink vs NBN

Satellite mobile data is here

When it comes to mobile data and Internet connections, you might have more options than you think. Beyond the traditional phone plans and broadband, you can also get a satellite phone plan or satellite Internet to take care of your data needs.

One of the main options for satellite data in Australia has been the National Broadband Network’s (NBN) Sky Muster. But Starlink is coming to Australia this year, and it’s already available for pre-order, adding another powerful choice to your satellite mobile data options.

So with these two great offers on the table, which one is better for mobile data? We’ll take a look at both Starlink and the NBN’s Sky Muster to help you decide which is best for you.

What is a satellite mobile plan?

Satellite phone plans have been around for a long time, actually. You’ve probably seen (or heard about) the bulky handsets and special equipment needed just to make a call on a satellite phone. But those days are long gone. Today’s satellite phone plans can be used on your regular mobile phone, allowing you to used data as fast as your typical SIM only phone plan.

Traditional satellite mobile plans depend on satellites floating around 36,000km away from the earth. That far distance results in high latency (data traveling from earth to the satellite and back), which isn’t that great for your mobile data.

Modern satellite mobile plans, on the other hand, depend on multiple satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), around 500km to 2,000km away from the earth. This closer distance results in lower latency, which is great for your mobile data.

Also, the closer the satellites are to earth, the faster your mobile data speeds. And LEO satellite mobile services typically have more satellites in orbit (traveling behind each other), which means you’ll have better coverage.

Starlink vs NBN’s Sky Muster – Speed, latency, price

Starlink is Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite phone company. It uses satellites in LEO to provide mobile services like data, and their website just launched for pre-orders in Australia. Starlink will go live in Australia in the second half of this year.

Sky Muster has already been in Australia for a while – it is the NBN’s satellite Internet service, and it is more on the traditional side. However, users have been pleased with its speeds so far.

But both satellite mobile data services have their benefits and drawbacks. The following table summarises what they both offer and at what cost:

LEO satellite vs traditional satellite

Because Starlink uses LEO satellites, you can expect faster download speeds than Sky Muster. The same is true about low latency – Starlink wins there as well.

But where Starlink will dominate the NBN’s Sky Muster in speed and low latency, Sky Muster wins in lower costs.

A Starlink plan will cost you a deposit of over AU$700, after which you will pay almost $140 per month when your service is live – and that’s still several months away. Sky Muster, on the other hand, costs anywhere from $30 to $60 per month.

Another Sky Must advantage is that the service has been around for a while already, so it isn’t new to the Australian telco environment. For a brand new company like Starlink, navigating the Australian market might come with some growing pains.

Bottom line

Perhaps it’s a bit early to compare Starlink and Sky Muster. Starlink is yet to launch, so all we have to go on are their claims of speed and low latency, without any hands-on experience.

However, competition in the satellite mobile data space is a great thing. That’s because it gives you more options, especially if you’re in a rural area where traditional mobile services are scarce.

Satellite plans like Starlink also compete with those traditional mobile data services, as well as fixed wired services like the NBN. Competition is always good for the consumer, not just because it creates more options, but because it typically results in cheaper mobile data plans.

So what’s the verdict? It depends entirely on you and your needs. If Starlink lives up to its claims when it launches later this year, then it is the go-to service for fast, low latency mobile data. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, on the other hand, then Sky Muster might be the better choice.

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.