Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Starlink will be a lifeline for left-behind rural broadband

If you are stuck with a slow, unreliable rural fixed wireless connection, Starlink will change your life.

It will make an even bigger difference if you are off the broadband map.

Starlink has great potential as a fail-over service. Companies that can’t afford to be offline even for a few minutes can use it as a backstop.

For everyone else, Starlink’s main impact will be competitive pressure on your monthly internet bill.

Filling the gaps

By the end of 2022 New Zealand’s ultrafast broadband network will reach 87 percent of homes and businesses.

Rural Broadband Initiative services should reach another 10 percent. There are national fixed wireless options from the big mobile carriers. Not all are good.

Wisps offer localised alternatives. They can be brilliant. You can expect a more personal service to go with it.

The last two percent

That leaves about two percent of the population without any locally-supplied, government supported broadband.

If that’s you, Starlink is the most practical option.

A couple of alternative satellite services are due to join Starlink over the next two years.

You won’t be spoiled for choice. But after years of zero choice, you’ll have options.

Fibre is better

As things stand today, Starlink is not the best service for the 87 percent who can get fibre. Fibre is cheaper, faster and more reliable.

On paper it looks like Starlink won’t be the best option for people who can get fixed wireless broadband on urban frequencies. These are people who live close to a cellular tower. If you can see it from your property, you should be good.

Today’s Starlink service may offer similar speeds, but it is more expensive, needs an upfront hardware investment and coverage can be sporadic.

Beta service

At the moment Starlink offers a beta service. When more satellites are launched its performance should improve. There are suggestions it will come down in price.

If that happens you might need to think again. For now, stick with the devil you know.

Those people with poor fixed wireless broadband connections now have an option.

If that’s you, and you need a better connection and can afford the higher asking price, then $160 a month and almost a grand upfront for the receiver, looks like a good deal.


You may have seen gushing posts about Starlink performance on places like Geekzone. It can be good.

But that’s not always the case.

Remember, like any broadband delivered by radio waves, you share the spectrum with other users. If a lot of people in your neighbourhood are on Starlink at the same time, you can expect performance to drop.

Likewise, Starlink is a line of sight service, if there are hills, buildings or trees between you and the satellite, you’ll run into problems.

Low earth orbit

Keep in mind that Starlink is a low-earth orbit satellite. That means the nearest satellite will often be low in the sky.

None of this is secret. Starlink is refreshingly open about the restrictions on its service. That hasn’t always been the case with over enthusiastic fixed wireless salespeople.

There’s an app which will tell you what to expect in terms of coverage.

There’s another problem that will be a major worry in parts of rural New Zealand. Starlink’s receiver doesn’t like high wind conditions.

Fixed wireless

When 4G fixed wireless broadband started, I spoke to an excited farmer who was getting 85mbps from his local tower.

It was 300m from his house and he was the only user at the time. He may see similar speeds at times now the tower has filled, but it won’t be consistent.

You can expect to have more than enough broadband to watch streaming video services like Netflix. Buffering papers over the cracks in these services. Services like Spark Sport and Sky Go may see more dropouts if you watch live games.


The biggest drawback is latency. Reports from overseas say it swings from being fibre-like to dropping out. You’ll be able to do Zoom calls, but you may want to warn the people you talk to that your connection can drop at any moment.

Gamers might not like the variable latency. If split-second pixel shooting is that important to you, it’s time to consider moving to the big smoke.

Reading between the lines of overseas coverage, Starlink’s main reason for being is compensates for poor network coverage in countries and parts of countries without competitive broadband. That and more remote rural users who are off the normal networks.


For New Zealand it will fill the gaps. Competition could give Vodafone and Spark a kick forcing them to improve poor performing RBI services. Or they may pass. If enough people on a poor rural tower defect to Starlink, performance may improve for those who stay.

Let’s repeat. Today Starlink is a beta service. More satellites are coming. That could change everything.

There’s talk that the price may drop as more people get on board. This is a two edged sword. More people can mean more congestion. Either way, it’s going to be worth watching Starlink.

Starlink will be a lifeline for left-behind rural broadband users was first posted at

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Ian Powell: Doctors Call For Vaccine Development In New Zealand

On 10 June the Democracy Project published online an article by me on why New Zealand should seriously consider developing its own vaccine manufacturing and supply, particularly in respect of the coronavirus pandemic.. More>>

Peter Dunne: What Has Happened To Tolerance?

An unpleasant aspect of our current national character has come to light in recent times. When it comes right down to it, no matter what our pretences to the contrary, tolerance for a different point of view, or approach to things, is not a commodity in great supply at present, right across the political spectrum... More>>

Keith Rankin: Inflation Fears, Bullshit Costs, And Inappropriate Policy

It is true that New Zealand – and the rest of the world – now faces substantial inflation pressure. As the 2020s unfold, the biggest macroeconomic story – as in the 1920s after World War 1 – is likely to be about how we address these pressures... More>>

Climate Explained: Is New Zealand Losing Or Gaining Native Forests?

Apart from wetlands, land above the treeline, coastal dunes and a few other exceptions, New Zealand was once covered in forests from Cape Reinga to Bluff. So was Europe, which basically consisted of a single forest from Sicily in southern Italy to the North Cape in Norway, before human intervention... More>>

Sydney Mockdown: The Delta Variant Strikes

It is proving to be an unfolding nightmare. For a government that had been beaming with pride at their COVID contract tracing for months, insisting that people could live, consume and move about with freedom as health professionals wrapped themselves round the virus, the tune has changed... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Why The J&J Vaccine Isn’t An Ideal Back-up Option, And Haiti

The news that Medsafe has given approval to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine means the government is finally putting a backup plan in place, after the series of close shaves it has been experiencing of late in getting its deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine... More>>