Starlink Facing Possible Overheating Issues

Thursday July 8, 2021

'Starlink' (CC BY 2.0)
'Starlink' (CC BY 2.0)  ( Bilddatenbank)

Still a while out from full release, the beta tests of the Starlink internet service have not been going smoothly. Facing a multitude of issues keeping the systems from reaching their full potential, Starlink keeps finding new and exciting ways to break. The latest of these comes in the form of an overheating issue which, while only applicable in some areas, could be a world of trouble for the provider.

The Heat Problem

Bringing the overheating problem into public consciousness was the work of a beta user in Arizona. Known only by his username of Martin, the satellite dish in this user's Starlink system was fine until it hit its thermal limit of 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Following this point, the dish goes into automatic shutdown until it cools to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A great idea to prevent damage, but one that was somewhat undercut by the fact the dish didn't cool down to that point naturally.

Instead, Martin came up with the temporary solution of aiming a sprinkler at it. Not great in terms of saving water, this solution is far from realistic in most scenarios. Without the sprinkler, however, Martin faced a shutdown between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., in a repeating pattern that looks to continue through the summer months.

A Cause for Concern?

While overheating will certainly remain a potential problem in certain environments, it's not one without remedy. Existing in beta versions of the hardware, it's quite possible that Starlink could undergo a redesign before a 1.0 release to change to components more thermally stable. The only problem with this is that many of Elon Musk's projects can ignore customer feedback, as has been seen with recurring Tesla faults which have lasted for years.

Adding to this are problems with connectivity that Starlink users have reported, some of which are not so easily fixed. Complications with access to skylines and inconsistent disconnection times could again find solutions through infrastructural upgrades, but we still don't know if these will be over-selling an incomplete dream.

Do You Need Starlink?

The big question, and one with some surprisingly easy answers. In general terms, unless you live in a remote area without access to a phone line, traditional connections will practically always be superior. In some cases, this could mean going for DSL connections instead of much faster fiber, but these can usually operate just fine for most uses.

For example, consider typical use cases such as browsing and playing the best online bingo games. These websites' titles, like Flash Bingo and Rainbow Riches, require such little data that no slowdown on DSL connections would occur. This would apply to any of their other games too, regardless of how many players were involved.

The only real limitations with these connections would come from multiple users engaging in high-bandwidth systems like ultra-HD movie streaming. In these scenarios, the potentially faster speeds of Starlink could help, but only if connectivity issues are addressed first.

It's still early days for Starlink, and there's been a definite improvement of the systems over the beta testing period. The only question is whether Starlink can continue on an upward trajectory until the full release, or whether they'll be left to crash and burn, alongside tens of thousands of their satellites.