Starlink vs. Windstream: How Do They Compare and Which is Better?

For a long time, homeowners and businesses located outside the range of cable or fiber networks had limited options when it came to internet connectivity. Rural and remote areas have notoriously poor access, putting their communities at an economic disadvantage in our increasingly digital world.

Thankfully, advances in satellite technology have enabled a new generation of internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver reliable broadband even to obscure locations. Starlink and Windstream stand out as leading satellite and land-based providers worth considering if you need an alternative to DSL, cable or fiber.

This guide compares Starlink and Windstream side-by-side, analyzing the pros and cons so you can determine the best fit for your home or business.

Starlink vs. Windstream: Key Facts

Type of ServiceSatellite ISPDSL/Fiber ISP
Primary UseResidential/Business InternetResidential/Business Internet
Launch Date20192006
Key DevelopersSpaceX, Elon MuskWindstream Holdings Inc.
Frequency BandsKu-, Ka-N/A
Max Upload Speed40 Mbps1 Gbps (fiber)
Max Download Speed350 Mbps1 Gbps (fiber)
Latency20-40 ms27 ms
Contract Required?NoNo
Data Throttling?NoNo
Data Caps?NoNo
Monthly Fee$75$30-$85
Additional Fees$460 equipment$35 installation
Equipment IncludedBase station, routerRouter
Service Areas40 countries18 U.S. states

What is Starlink?

Starlink has quickly become the world‘s largest satellite ISP, providing high-speed, low-latency internet to over 500,000 subscribers globally as of 2021. The company is owned by SpaceX, Elon Musk‘s aerospace manufacturer.

Starlink currently has over 3,000 satellites orbiting at low altitudes to give users consistent coverage across 40 countries. They intend to launch up to 42,000 to enhance capacity and availability worldwide.

While astronomers initially raised concerns over impacts to space observation, Starlink‘s small, low-orbiting satellites minimize light pollution. Plus, they automatically de-orbit when retired to prevent space junk. SpaceX closely monitors orbital patterns to avoid collisions.

A Brief History

LEO satellite technology traces back to the 1990s after initial development for tracking ballistic missiles. Attempts to adapt it for consumer internet failed due to prohibitive infrastructure costs.

In the 2000s, SpaceX began acquiring satellite internet companies, collaborating on a proposed 700-satellite network called WorldVu in 2014. That year, they also applied to Norwegian authorities to create a system dubbed Starlink.

From 2016-2021, SpaceX invested over $10 billion to develop and launch their Starlink constellation. They now provide satellite broadband services to remote regions otherwise lacking connectivity.

Services, Speeds and Pricing

Starlink offers best-in-class satellite internet in terms of speed (200Mbps+), latency (20-40ms) and capacity. The enormous satellite fleet enables consistent performance for streaming, gaming and video calls globally.

Unlike geo-stationary satellites with higher lag times, Starlink‘s low orbit facilitates near real-time communication. There are no bricks-and-mortar infrastructure requirements, so users in extremely remote locales can connect to the network.

Starlink has competitively priced, contract-free plans. Users pay a one-time hardware cost (~$559) and $110 monthly subscription fee. RV and portability add-ons allow pause/unpausing service.


Starlink provides plug-and-play hardware kits including:

  • Base station – Proprietary transceiver that interfaces with satellites
  • WiFi router – For connecting devices over home network
  • Cables
  • Mobile app – For monitoring performance/changing settings

What is Windstream?

Windstream is an established national ISP focused on underserved markets including rural areas of 18 U.S. states. They mainly deliver internet via DSL infrastructure, but also operate fiber networks offering up to 1 Gbps speeds.

Parent company Windstream Holdings provides voice, data, cloud and managed services to residential and enterprise clients. They rank as the 9th largest residential phone provider nationally with over 8 million customers.

A Look Back

Windstream formed in 2006 via the merger of Valor Communications Group and Alltel Wireless. Long-time telecom executive, Anthony Thomas, has presided as President and CEO since 2014.

The company underwent bankruptcy reorganization in 2019 following a bond default. They‘ve since rebounded with the launch of Kinetic fiber-optic deployments.

Rural Connectivity Specialists

Windstream has built a niche delivering copper-based internet to rural communities underserved by large providers. Though slower than cable or fiber, DSL offers reliable speeds at affordable rates where alternatives remain limited.

They also operate fiber-to-the-home networks providing up to 1Gbps speeds in select metro regions across their footprint. Most rural users connect via DSL with max rates around 50 Mbps.

What it Costs

Windstream offers multiple DSL and fiber internet packages:

  • DSL – Four speed tier options from 50 Mbps to 1 Gbps, $30-$85/month
  • Fiber – Up to 1 Gbps for $69.99-$85/month
  • Equipment fees ($10/month), $35 installation charge

No contracts or data caps apply. Temporary discounts may be advertised.

Satellite vs DSL – How Do They Compare?

At first glance, Starlink and Windstream have little in common beyond serving remote users. However, both enable modern connectivity options where traditional infrastructure remains sparse. DSL and satellite each have inherent advantages and limitations to consider:

Satellite – Starlink

  • Pros – Fast speeds (200+ Mbps), low latency for streaming/gaming, expansive coverage (40 country footprint)
  • Cons – Higher equipment cost, subject to weather disruption, requires clear view of sky

DSL – Windstream

  • Pros – Affordable, available using existing phone lines, consistent performance
  • Cons – Slower speeds than cable/fiber (Up to 50 Mbps), signal degradation over distance

Heavy bandwidth activities like multiplayer gaming and 4K streaming favor Starlink‘s superior throughput capabilities. But if you just need basic internet access, Windstream DSL offers reliable functionality at a very reasonable price point, especially for rural regions.

Choosing the Right Option

Here are a few key questions to help decide if Starlink or Windstream better fits your needs:

1. What speeds do you require? If you have lots of users/devices and need to transfer large files, Starlink‘s 200+ Mbps speeds deliver a much snappier experience. Light users can get by OK with slower DSL.

2. Are you located in a Windstream service area? Starlink has much wider eligibility, but if Windstream can equip your home with DSL/fiber, setup is simpler with lower hardware costs.

3. Do you need connectivity in obscure locales? Starlink‘s satellites provide coverage virtually anywhere outdoors with a clear view upward. DSL relies on nearby phone infrastructure.

4. How much downtime can you tolerate? Windstream‘s wired network offers slightly higher reliability than satellite, which is subject to weather interference. But Starlink only sees a few minutes of disruption annually for most regions.

For the majority of rural users, Starlink presents an appealing option thanks to competitive pricing combined with fast speeds and low latency. But Windstream still warrants consideration given their strong reputation and low cost of entry.

6 Key Takeaways – Starlink vs Windstream

1. Starlink leverages a massive fleet of satellites for global coverage; Windstream utilizes land-based communication infrastructure

2. Starlink delivers speeds up to 350 Mbps with 20-40ms latency; Windstream offers 50 Mbps DSL or 1 Gbps fiber

3. Starlink has higher equipment cost ($460) but lower monthly fees ($75); Windstream charges installation fees with tiered internet pricing

4. Both ISPs provide contract-free service with no data caps or throttling

5. Starlink can be used for residential internet, business communications and even aviation/maritime connectivity

6. Windstream focuses primarily on homes and businesses across 18 rural U.S. states

Final Thoughts

Starlink and Windstream expand internet access options for under-connected communities using innovative satellite and DSL technologies respectively.

For most remote users, Starlink‘s combination of lightning speeds and competitive monthly pricing make their service a superior choice over existing satellite providers. However, Windstream DSL should not be overlooked in regions where available – it can deliver entirely adequate performance for light home use at very affordable rates.

Ultimately, Starlink sets itself apart via wider eligibility, robust speed/capacity and unprecedented ease-of-use. But savvy rural users should compare all ISPs to identify the technology best suited for their connectivity needs and budget.

Photo by nmedia/Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions

What is satellite internet?

  • Satellite internet provides broadband connectivity using a network of orbiting satellites, either in high altitude geosynchronous orbits or newer low to mid-level orbits utilized by Starlink. Communicating with specialized ground antennas, data travels wirelessly through space instead of cables or cell towers.

What do Ka and Ku frequency bands mean?

  • Ka and Ku designate radio frequency ranges assigned for satellite communication. Ku band (12-18 GHz) has traditionally dominated for satellite internet. Ka band (26.5-40 GHz) enables higher throughput, which Starlink leverages for faster speeds/capacity.

Which states can get Windstream internet service?

  • Windstream provides DSL and/or fiber-optic home internet services to residential and business customers throughout 18 U.S. states (primarily rural regions):

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas

What is DSL internet?

DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It carries internet traffic as electrical signals through standard telephone lines already connected to homes and businesses. A compatible modem interprets the signal allowing networked devices to establish broadband connectivity via existing copper infrastructure.

Are there other rural internet options?

  • Yes, rural users may also access internet through fixed wireless or cellular networks:

Fixed wireless – Uses radio links for last mile delivery; requires roof antenna receiving transmitter signal from ISP tower

Cellular – Leverages mobile broadband infrastructure for home usage via indoor routing device/hotspot

These alternatives have pros and cons around speed, data limits and reliability similar to DSL/satellite.

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