Nobody likes a data cap: that moment when you simply can’t access anything online because you already streamed too many movies or downloaded too many songs.
So you might want to know whether there is a Starlink data cap before getting the service.
Let’s cut to the chase. Does Starlink have a data cap? The short answer is that there’s no data cap on Starlink in the old-fashioned sense of the term.
The reality is that there’s a “Fair Use Policy” and that might mean that you don’t get “priority” service when demand is high.
It also means that if you have priority access, that operates within a data cap. In other words, you can use your priority data up.
Can You Have No Internet Because of a Starlink Data Cap?
Yes, you can – if you’re at sea! We’ll give you more detail on this later on in this article.
But do remember that there are other reasons why you might get no Starlink access – including inability to connect to a satellite or faulty hardware.
In this article, we’ll look at Starlink’s Fair Use Policy and how that might affect your online experience. You’re welcome to take a look at the original, but we’ll give you the bottom line in simpler terms.
How Starlink Balances Supply and Demand (The Basics)
Starlink isn’t infinite. They only have so many satellites up there and they may have a lot of traffic to handle.
You’ll know that no matter who you use as an internet service provider, there are peak hours when things slow down because of high demand.
Where you live or try to access the internet from will also make a difference.
Using conventional internet as an example, you’re likely to get better speeds in New York than you would if you lived in a very remote area.
Starlink may not be conventional, but it faces similar challenges. High demand will generally slow your internet, and a geographical location with limited service won’t work optimally.
Does Starlink Deprioritize You Based on What You’re Doing Online?
As far as Starlink is concerned, what you’re doing with your internet is your business.
So, if you’re binge watching Tiktok, you have as much chance of good network service as the guy who is working on some vitally important scientific research.
However, Starlink does admit that there are “categories” of traffic that affect how it deploys its service.
That refers to the Starlink plan you sign up for, and it’s a very important factor. More of this very soon.
When Starlink “Preserving Network Integrity” Slows You Down
When it comes to the reasons why Starlink might choke a connection, the company covers all the possible bases.
It says it may be called upon to comply with certain laws, for example. It also says that it has to protect the security of its users.
So, for example, if there’s malicious code doing the rounds via its network, it has to do something about that, and that may affect your service.
And, of course, we’re back to traffic. When there’s a lot of demand, Starlink tries to stay up by sharing things out so that everybody gets something, even if that “something” isn’t the best.
Now for the meaty bit which Starlink calls “distributing data based on service plan.” A simple explanation of this is “you get what you paid for.” Let’s examine that factor next.
Got a Standard Fixed Service Plan? You May Find Things Slowing Down
Starlink’s standard fixed service plan means you’re not a high-priority customer. The company says the plan is for personal use.
So, let’s say you get home and start streaming a movie using Starlink while your kids game online. Your neighbors are probably doing the same thing.
But what if there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around? Starlink has a specific allocation that it sees as suitable for the average residential user. Go over that allocation, and things are going to slow down.
These days, most users see things like streaming, gaming, or downloading biggish files as being pretty normal.
Starlink says that if you’re doing this kind of bandwidth-intensive stuff, it’s going to slow you down when its service is under pressure.
So while that’s not really a Starlink data cap, your data use can mean that things slow down a whole lot.
Fixed Service Priority Plans: Not an Infinite Bandwidth Boost
If you’re using a lot of bandwidth and are finding the standard service plan too limiting, you can switch to a priority plan. Being prioritized means you get faster speeds.
But the amount of priority data you use is still measured. In fact, there are various levels of priority plans namely the 1, 2 and 6 terabyte plans.
Once you’ve used up your priority data, you move back to standard data. That will be slower, and you’re more likely to be affected by “network management” measures.
Mobile Plans and Starlink Data Cap
Once again, it isn’t really a cap as much as it is your position on the priorities ladder. There are two Mobile options available.
The bad news for those using a standard mobile service plan is that they’re right down on the bottom rung of that ladder. That’s right, you’re right down there below users with standard fixed services.
When demand is high or there’s network congestion of any kind, your speeds are affected first.
If this is bugging you, you have two options. You can either buy mobile priority data, paying per gigabyte you purchase or shift to a mobile priority service plan.
By the way, you’re going to need that Rolls Royce mobile priority plan if you need connectivity while you’re in motion or from a boat at sea.
It bumps you up two rungs on the priority ladder: above standard mobile users and standard fixed use (domestic) users.
Once again, there are three priority packages: a 50GB, 1TB, and 5TB package. After you’ve used your Starlink data cap for priority access, you go back to standard access.
However, if you’re on the sea, you won’t have any internet access at all – except to buy more priority data.
Automatic Priority Data Top-Ups
Let’s assume that you understand priority data and are happy to go for automatic top-ups from Starlink. Can you do it?
You certainly can, but do remember that you’re going to get billed for it.
So, if you opt for this, and don’t want to end up with an unexpectedly high bill, you should track your usage very carefully. You can do this using your Starlink app – but it will take some self-discipline.
Finally, no matter what plan you choose, you might not get the speeds you were expecting when the network is having issues. Starlink offers no guarantees.
It simply promises to give its priority customers first dibs on what’s available and last place on the list of those affected when it needs to slow things down.
Starlink Data Caps: Is It Still a Worthwhile Service?
Starlink is offering many of its domestic and mobile customers better connectivity and better speeds than they can get from conventional service providers. That’s especially true when they’re in remote areas.
If you’re thinking of getting a domestic service, compare prices and check speeds. If what you’re already getting is adequate, or it’s comparable to what Starlink can offer there’s no need to switch.
If you’re into the outdoor or nomadic lifestyle and can’t be sure of having internet access, you probably stand a better chance of staying connected with Starlink.
But do remember that Starlink isn’t yet available everywhere in the world, and because of regulatory hurdles in some countries, it may never be.
Check the Starlink map to see whether it will be worth your while.
For those using priority services, there is such a thing as a Starlink data cap. For those who don’t, there’s deprioritization when you use a lot of bandwidth and the network faces challenges.
So consider your networking needs, and do remember that Starlink is generally more expensive than other services.
Worthwhile? That depends on your circumstances. For some, it’s their only chance at getting connected – and that has to be worthwhile.