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Starlink: Canada pricing, launch date, features and competitors

Elon Musk's new satellite-based Internet service promises fast broadband across the entire country. Learn here about how it might succeed against 5G.

Satellite-based Internet isn’t a new phenomenon in Canada. But the skies above us have opened up to a fresh satellite Internet competitor. Here’s what you need to know about Elon Musk’s Starlink service.

  • Starlink is Elon Musk’s new satellite Internet service, launched by private aerospace company SpaceX
  • Low-earth-orbit satellite “chains” or constellations provide the broadband
  • With multiple satellites closer to the Earth than usual, almost anywhere could access high-speed Internet

Starlink is a network of low-earth-orbit satellite constellation developed by SpaceX. First prototyped in 2018 and made available to North American consumers in late 2020, SpaceX plans to have thousands of satellites form a cluster that delivers Internet services to almost anywhere on the planet including hard-to-reach areas.

Theoretically, low-earth orbiting satellites reduce the space between the Starlink cluster and competing satellite services, leading to faster services.

Timelapse of Starlink satellite orbiting the earth
Time lapse taken of a Starlink satellite constellation (Getty Images)
FeatureDetails/Specs
Cost (CAD)
  • $714 plus tax ($649 base cost + $65 shipping)
  • $129/month ongoing with no contract
DataUnlimited
Upload speedTypically 15 to 20 Mbps
Download speedTypically 40 to 80 Mbps
Latency20 to 40 ms (eventually down to 10 ms as more satellites get released)
Supports VPN?Yes (TCP/UDP/ICMP protocols)
Internet protocolIPv4 (will support IPv6 in the future)
Uptime/DowntimeUptime is not guaranteed. According to downdetector.com on Dec 17, 2021, approx. 73% of reports concern the internet, and 22% of reports concern total blackouts.

Estimated obstructions can be viewed on the Starlink mobile app.

Dish dimensions & features
  • Round dish
    • Dish: 25.4″ X 23.2″ (64.5cm X 58.9cm)
    • Base: 11″ X 4″ (28cm X 10cm)
    • Weight: 16 lbs (7.3 kg)
    • Has 1 ethernet (LAN) port
    • Comes with a 100ft (30m) cable.
  • Rectangular dish
    • Dish: 19″ X 12″ (50cm x 30cm)
    • Base: 22″ X 12.9″ X 4.75″ (55cm X 32cm X 12cm)
    • Weight: 9.2 lbs (4.2kg) with cable
    • Ethernet connection possible via adapter (sold separately)
    • Comes with a 75ft (23m) cable.
Dish placementDownload the Starlink app for installation instructions. Dish will auto-align to get the best possible signal. Position could change as more satellites are launched.

For most users, the dish needs to be pointed 25°–90° above the horizon with a clear 100° view of the North sky. You may need to mount the dish on vertical pole or similar object to clear trees and other obstructions.

Professional installation required?No
Weatherproofing
  • Designed to handle snow, hail, sleet, heavy rain, and extreme heat. Dish’s Snow Melt functionality uses naturally-generated heat to melt snow and ice, but heavy snow could still impact performance. Icicles should not impact performance.
  • NOT designed for hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, meteors, dinosaurs (according to Starlink’s FAQ…) or other extreme events.
Wifi router
  • Round dish
    • IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards
    • Dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
    • For indoor use
    • Security: WPA2 and WPA3
  • Rectangular dish
    • IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards
    • Dual band 2.4Ghz and 5GHz
    • For indoor use but water resistant (IP54 rating)
    • Security: WPA2 and WPA3.
Mobile app?Yes. Available for android and iOS.

If they’re low-earth satellites, does that mean I can see them?

With the right equipment — and sometimes with the naked eye — you can see them. However, they’re rapidly moving satellites: They circle the globe every 90 minutes, so don’t blink. There’s already a service tracking Starlink’s satellite visibility, so grab that telescope and get spotting!

Note that Starlink reduced the brightness of its satellites to avoid getting in the way of astronomical observation, so you may not always get the clearest view of satellite coverage from the company’s maps.

Map of Starlink satellite chain location in Canada

Example of satellite chain locations across Canada (red and blue lines) as of September 27, 2021. Image taken from findstarlink.com, with graphics and legend overlaid for emphasis.

Starlink satellite map, North America

Snapshot of Starlink satellite placement over North America as of September 27, 2021. Image taken from satellitemap.space.

Starlink became available in Canada in early 2021. When you order Starlink, you’ll get a confirmation email with an estimated shipping time frame. You can also view this information by logging into your online account. According to the Starlink website, most kits are dispatched within 2 weeks.

Starlink’s local website recently went live promising service availability in “mid-to-late 2021” for most addresses. Services are being offered on a “first come, first served” basis, but there’s no real indication what that really means in terms of available service numbers or expected customer loads.

Starlink’s pricing for a single month plan goes for $129 CAD with no stated data caps.

However, there’s more to it. You’ll also be on the hook for receiver equipment and hardware, costing $649 CAD plus $65 CAD for shipping and handling. If you’re selected as a Starlink customer, you’ll have to pay the equipment and shipping fee up front.

Starlink is advertising that its services will be capable of speeds from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations. But it also notes that there “will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.” Theoretically, that’ll be less of a problem as Starlink increases its satellite fleet over time.

However, as with any wireless technology, numerous factors can affect your network speeds, both environmental and in-network demand. So like a busy road, if it has too many customers trying to access the Internet at once, everyone’s service could slow to a crawl. That’s one reason why Starlink isn’t offering universal service.

Both services are wireless, but weighing 5G against Starlink leaves Starlink in the dust. If you’re looking at fixed 5G home broadband, you can score cheaper plans with much better latency and potentially higher data rates, depending on the network. There are upfront modem costs, but they’re nowhere near as high as Starlink’s prices.

If you’re considering mobile 5G, device costs are higher — a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, for example, will set you back $765 outright — but it’s still lower than Starlink. Some plans have data caps, but “unlimited data” plans are available.

The catch here is coverage areas. While 5G availability has been expanding in Canada, it’s still heavily concentrated on high population areas.

Starlink can deliver a service to any open-air spot across Canada. You won’t get much of a 5G signal in the middle of Algonquin Park, but you could get a Starlink signal and service — the only other issue would be a sufficient power supply.

If you’ve signed up for Starlink, login to your customer portal to access help materials and get answers to your questions. You can also access support by logging into the Starlink’s mobile app, available for Android and iOS.

Starlink has been exploring plans to go public through its parent company, SpaceX. The exact timing has not been confirmed. Elon Musk has stated that the company needs to have a predictable cash flow before it can move forward with an IPO.

On October 8, 2021, it was revealed that SpaceX has a market valuation of over $100 billion. An agreement was reached allowing existing investors to sell private stock in SpaceX for $560 each. Up to $755 million in stocks can be sold.

Given that the company is headquartered in the US, it will likely go public on a US stock exchange like the Nasdaq or NYSE. To buy SpaceX stock, you’ll need a Canada-based trading platform that provides access to US stocks like CIBC Investor’s Edge, QTrade Direct Investing, Questrade, Wealthsimple Trade or Scotia iTRADE.

How to buy Starlink stock when it goes public

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