# Main differences between 5G and Starlink? [closed]

I wonder who is better in terms of whole if considered. Speed, latency, reach, accessibility and affordability.

• "Am I thinking vague?" Well I think your initial question about the potential for Starlink to augment 5G is a reasonable question about the business of communications satellites, but the jump to "universe communication" is a whole different topic. I'm going to edit that out so that your question isn't quickly closed. You can always ask as many good questions as you like in Stack Exchange, but each one should be fairly narrow in scope. – uhoh Dec 16 '20 at 10:09
• I think with the edit the question can now stay open. The answer is excellent and matches to the question well. – uhoh Dec 16 '20 at 10:16
• I think that the deep-space-network tag should be removed, because the question only refers to terrestrial satellites and communication. Perhaps "Communication" would be better? – BillThePlatypus Dec 16 '20 at 21:18
• I assume its too early to talk about Starlink and 5G internet connection. Now we have only the beta version of the Starlink project and its not so reliable as we can see. I guess that in the future this project will be developed and probably we will able to use Starlink 5G internet. – john1616 Dec 17 '20 at 11:47
• Right now your most recent edit makes the question even worse! "Who is better?" asks for opinions, and would be closed because it is likely to receive answers that are primarily opinion-based. It's still hard to figure out exactly what question you want to ask, but you can't keep changing the question now that answers have been posted. I think you will have to leave this question closed, and see if you can come up with a different and better written new question. It shouldn't be too similar to this nor answered by any of the existing answers here otherwise it would be closed as a duplicate – uhoh Feb 2 at 21:59

Starlink and 5G don't have that much to do with each other--they compete for different customers.

1. Starlink systems currently require a large receiver the size of a pizza box to uplink to satellites. It is unlikely that this will be miniaturized to fit into mobile devices within the next decade or so.

2. 5G is a short-range, high-bandwidth technology designed to allow high speed data in urban environments. Starlink is a long range service designed to give Internet to people away from urban centers. They are not in competition

3. While you could use Starlink to provide network access to a 5G tower, it wouldn't make much sense as Starlink doesn't provide that much bandwidth. According to the FCC filing, Starlink satellites have a max individual throughout of 20gbps and a single 5G client can expect speeds north of 500mbps. That means a single 5G tower which is connected via Starlink could only support 40 people (at max utilization) even with a dedicated satellite.

4. Starlink is not a member of the DSN and won't be anytime soon. The satellites are all facing inwards and in rather low orbits. Maybe, low-orbit stations or spacecraft will be able to hook into the network for internet though.

• I edited the question somewhat and removed the "universe communication" bit in order to keep it open. I don' think it impacts your answer, but have a look just in case. – uhoh Dec 16 '20 at 10:15
• 40 people (at max utilization). I don't think all 5G connections will be that fast. You can already see that; you don't always get 50Mbps from your 4G phone, do you? Sometimes it's slower. – user253751 Dec 16 '20 at 15:30
• @user253751 well, no, not all 5g is born equal but 500mbps is also a conservative middle value. Only low-band maxes out at 250 while mid and high band max out at 900 and 3gbps respectively. Sure, people aren't likey going to be using their full allotment of speed all the time, but if clients are theoretically capable of getting 3gbps, that's quite the bottleneck – Dragongeek Dec 16 '20 at 15:51
• @Dragongeek It's very very very very very very normal (I can't over-emphasize this) for internet companies to oversubscribe their connections. They may have a 5Gbps connection and they split it up into 1000 different 100Mbps connections for 1000 different customers. Each customer gets their full speed as long as the total use at any given time is under 5Gbps. – user253751 Dec 16 '20 at 16:20
• To give scale, Starlink "long range" is 550 km (340 miles), compared to the "short range" of 460m (1500 ft) for 5G. – computercarguy Dec 16 '20 at 20:39

I don't think so. Delivering end user service is far more profitable than wholesale. And the full Starlink plan is having the satellites work as a global internet backbone, with the end users directly connected to the network.

Think about it this way 10 million users @ US\$100/user = US$ 1 billion/month in gross revenue. The largest cost of a global ISP is precisely its network and the full starlink will allow for them to directly access all worldwide major IXP (internet exchange points), perhaps never having to pay a dime to purchase global internet transit that even huge ISPs like Time Warner and Comcast have to pay (because they don't have a global network hence they don't qualify to peer with the big global players like L3, NTT, Tata, AT&T, HE, Cogent, ...).

In the end rolling out fiber isn't cheap but its an investment that can last for many decades.

Bandwidth requirements for a 5G cell is very large. Starlink simply won't have the spare bandwidth to do "whole selling".

This will almost certainly be the case for some 5G (and even 4G) cells.

Starlink provides, at best, 20Gbps per satellite with the current fleet with real bandwidth likely to be 1/3 to 1/2 of this. This is nowhere near enough for a 4/5G cell with significant subscription, but in the cases where a carrier wants to extend coverage down an interstate or through a rural area then it will be significantly cheaper for them to use Starlink as a backhaul than to run fiber. Starlink may or may not be more attractive than other constellations, depending on the carrier's tolerance for latency and the pricing structure for wholesale.

Starlink is a very interesting case - it has a constant network speed availability for a given area (within its coverage latitudes) over a very, very non-constant population density.

• +1 I have no specific expertise in this field but I have a hunch this is exactly the right answer. It's impossible to route fiber to every future 5G cell everywhere, free-space optical is really an exotic, expensive niche technology and microwave links simply don't have anywhere near the bandwidth. – uhoh Dec 16 '20 at 22:57