BBWN Bites: Study shows Starlink's shortcomings
Also in this roundup: NBN's fiber pivot; Virgin goes for 2 Gbit/s; old TV causes broadband wipeout.
- New research has turned up some more insight into SpaceX's broadband satellite service-in-progress, Starlink. As Mike Dano writes for Light Reading this week, new estimates from financial analysts at Cowen show Starlink "will be able to support just 485,000 simultaneous users at 100Mbit/s across the entire US ... And that kind of performance won't even be available until the end of 2026, when Starlink floods Earth's skies with up to 12,000 satellites." This makes Starlink better poised to potentially surface as an option for rural communities rather than as a true competitor to existing large telcos, which generally fits with Musk's expectations for the service. An earlier study released from BroadbandNow in June showed that an estimated 16 million Americans lack access to broadband; and in rural and semi-rural areas of the US, 40% are upset with slow broadband speeds and 25% complain of latency and unreliable networks, making these areas potentially ripe for LEO satellite broadband solutions.
- The Australian government and National Broadband Network (NBN) announced a plan to upgrade the state-funded wholesale network to reach another 6 million premises, up from fewer than 2 million today, with up to 1 Gbit/s service. As Robert Clark writes on Light Reading, the plan will see NBN pivot to fiber, after several years of shunning a full-fiber plan to unsuccessfully invest billions in copper. That didn't work out so well, as Australia currently ranks 61st in Speedtest broadband rankings. (For more, see After seven years of copper, Australian NBN pivots to fiber.)
- Not content to just fulfill its goal of connecting its entire network to high-speed broadband by the decade's end, Virgin Media this week kicked things into higher gear, announcing that it had successfully tested delivering 2.2Gbit/s service to homes over its DOCSIS 3.1 technology. That's 34 times the UK's average speed of 64 Mbit/s. The trial took place in the town of Thatcham, in the south of England. While there is not yet any plan for commercial availability of this technology and Virgin has a long way to go to fulfilling its existing fiber goals, the successful trial suggests the company could ultimately win the UK speed race. In a blog post, Jeanie York, Virgin Media's Chief Technology and Information Officer wrote: "Rolling out multi-gigabit speeds as well as evolving our architecture will further enhance our network performance and allow us to support technologies like Edge computing."
- Virgin Media rival Openreach, meanwhile, made news this week for solving an 18-month broadband mystery. In a post, the company explained that inhabitants of Aberhosan and neighboring communities have endured poor connectivity every morning at 7 a.m., despite repeated efforts to fix the problem and tests showing the network was fine. This week, a team of engineers cracked the months-long issue by conducting a test for electrical noise, which it thought could be interfering with the broadband signal. They were correct: "The source of the 'electrical noise' was traced to a property in the village," said Openreach engineer Michael Jones. "It turned out that at 7 am every morning the occupant would switch on their old TV which would in-turn knock out broadband for the entire village. As you can imagine when we pointed this out to the resident, they were mortified that their old second hand TV was the cause of an entire village's broadband problems, and they immediately agreed to switch it off and not use again."
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor, Light Reading