How will Starlink reduce latency/ping?



I’ve read posts / other articles about how Elon is planning to allow for low latency / gaming on StarLink. I understand how they will increase bandwidth – but isn’t latency limited by speed of light?

In: Engineering

The latency to a satellite above your head at starlink altitude is just shy of 2 milliseconds. This means that connecting to a nearby server this way will take about 6 milliseconds.

Any normal connection delay increases by about 4 MS – maybe more like 8 if the satellites are off to the side somewhere. That’s very small for gaming.

The real delay is probably going to be in modem/routing time, but I’ll bet that this is something old Elon’s engineers can work around given the time and money to do so.

That is it’s theoretical upper limit, yes. However, in our current system, the interchanges between different areas of the internet’s physical web are slowing it down significantly more than light itself would, and light travels slower through fiber than it does through vacuum. Light travels across the diameter of the world in about 0.04s in a vacuum. Ping to cover the same distance would be at about 0.2-3s (best case scenario) in the current web. Starlink has the possibility of cutting that down significantly by avoiding the current bottlenecks of both fiber and cable-based interchanges. We’ll see how it actually turns out.

Latency is limited by the speed of light, but the important thing to note about Starlink is that there are different orbit distances in play. the lower latency will come from the ones closest to the earth and the more distant ones will serve as a high speed backbone, used when necessary.

The lower the satellite, the lower the latency.

Historically communications satellites have orbited in a high, geosynchronous orbit. This has the advantage that the satellites appear to stay in the same location in the sky at all times, so a fixed dish antenna can be used. The disadvantage is that they’re also far away, 100 ms up in the sky.

Starlink satellites are in low earth orbit which is much closer, less than 2 ms away when they’re directly overhead. Now ping times involve a signal going up to and back from a satellite on the way to a server and then up and back again on the way back, but this can still total around 10 ms for Starlink.