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Starlink vs. Centurylink: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • All you need for Centurylink service is a modem.
  • Centurylink lets customers rent modems for as low as $15 monthly.
  • Starlink is testing its service in science facilities in Antarctica.
  • Computer chip shortages are adding to Starlink’s subscriber waitlist issues.
  • Centurylink offers “Price for Life” coverage, meaning that your monthly subscription price will never increase.

Sometimes change is inevitable. We can accept it now or wait until the world changes and takes away our choice. Right now, you as a consumer have many choices when it comes to traditional internet.

Fiber optic internet is the current telecommunications standard because it is fast and reliable. But, satellite internet is incrementally becoming popular and could become the future standard for internet transmissions.

So, between Starlink and Centurylink, which would you choose?

Whether or not you use Starlink, an internet satellite company and SpaceX subsidiary owned by Elon Musk, or Centurylink, the third-largest telecommunications corporation in the United States, depends on where you live and what kind of internet service you want. Centurylink excels in offering landline telephone services, satellite TV, and fiber optic internet.

Over 50% of Americans use cable-based internet, but only 20% use fiber optic internet, even though it is fast and reliable. While over 63% of the world (about five billion people) is connected to the internet, less than 0.5% of that population accesses the internet via satellite broadband internet. That amounts to less than 43 million people globally.

Let’s compare Starlink and Centurylink and decide which service may be better for you.

StarlinkCenturylink
Founded20151930
FoundersElon Musk, Kimbal Musk, Gwynne ShotwellF.E. Hogan, Sr.
HeadquartersRedmond, WashingtonMonroe, Louisiana
ServiceLow Earth orbit satellite internetSatellite TV, telecommunications, and internet
Contract?NoNo
Cost$110 monthly, one-time $599 hardware fee$50 monthly
Internet Speed50 to 150 Mbps100 to 940 Mbps
Subscribers400,0004.5 million
Website https://www.starlink.com/https://www.centurylink.com/

Starlink vs. Centurylink: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between Starlink and Centurylink is that Starlink is a satellite internet service and Centurylink is a traditional telecommunications corporation offering fiber optic internet.

Let’s explore the main differences between the two internet subscription services below.

History

Starlink is a revolutionary and new satellite internet company. It is a subsidiary of the commercial space travel and engineering company owned by billionaire tech mogul, Elon Musk. Starlink was founded and conceptualized in 2015 as a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite company that would offer satellite internet access to its customers. 

Starlink has been launching its own commercial satellites into space since 2019 and has been building its brand for just as long. The company is attempting to serve and cater to a growing niche of satellite internet consumers who live in remote or rural areas but can take advantage of the service instead of waiting for a traditional cable internet infrastructure to come to them.

Starlink is less than a decade old but has ambitions to get ahead of the curve for a future satellite-based internet that may become a bigger norm, if not a standard.

Centurylink is arguably the third-largest American telecommunications company, with AT&T in the first place and Verizon in the second. However, Centurylink acquired its reputation and status over a century of business operations, acquisitions, mergers, and name changes. 

Centurylink was first founded in 1930 in Oak Ridge, Louisiana, but it was named the Oak Ridge Telephone Company. In 1947, the company was acquired by a new owner, moved to Marion, and renamed the Marion Telephone Company. The company changed its name to Century Telephone Enterprises, Inc. in 1971. 

Its new name was branded as, CenturyTel, Inc. in 1999. And, the company finally settled on the name Centurylink in 2009 after merging with data and telecommunications company, Embarq.

The point is that in almost a century, the Oak Ridge Telephone company made scores of acquisitions, mergers, and rebrandings, not for its own sake, but to strategically grow its consumer base, expand operations, keep up with the times and market trends, and promote its services.

By September 2020, Centurylink officially changed its name to Lumen Technologies to mirror how fast consumers are adapting to new forms of communication.

Even though Starlink is well-known because of its famous founder, it still has a long way to prove the reliability of its service, especially when it comes to satellite internet, which still only serves tens of millions of consumers globally. Centurylink has proven its reliability as a service for over a century. 

CenturyLink internet
CenturyLink has been around for much longer than Starlink, so it has built quite a positive reputation over the (almost) last century.

©madamF/Shutterstock.com

Method of Service

Starlink’s satellite internet is not a new kind of service. High Earth orbit (HEO) telecommunication satellites have been offering internet service for almost two decades. However, several traditional high Earth orbit satellites beam telecommunications signals one way or relay them to Earthbound satellite dishes.

What is different about Starlink’s business model is that the company plans to launch tens of thousands of its own satellites into low Earth orbit. Starlink has launched over 3,000 satellites into low Earth orbit since 2019. And, it has permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch up to 42,000 low Earth orbit satellites in the coming years and decades.

Starlink’s business plan is to create a low Earth orbit constellation-like shell of orbiting satellites. These low Earth orbit satellites will then constantly transmit and receive signals from the Earthbound Starlink dishes, which, in turn, enables relatively fast and reliable satellite internet service.

Centurylink provides TV, satellite, and traditional internet services to its subscribers. The company provides two kinds of internet service: fiber optic, and digital subscriber line (DSL).

Fiber optic cable enables electronic signals to be transmitted at much faster speeds. DSL is a method of co-opting existing telephone lines, which are made of copper, to transmit broadband internet without interrupting telecommunications service.

Centurylink’s services are enabled through the world’s existing telecommunications infrastructure and can be accessed and used immediately.

Starlink’s services are groundbreaking, but also very new. The company’s infrastructure is being created as it expands. It won’t reach its full potential until a low Earth orbit constellation of at least 10,000 satellites is launched. Even then, Starlink wants to launch as many as 42,000.

You may be waitlisted if you request a Starlink dish since it is not available everywhere.

Price and Installation

Starlink’s service will cost you $110 with a $600 one-time hardware fee. If you want a business service account with Starlink, that price increases to $500 monthly with a one-time $2,500 hardware fee. 

However, Starlink has a no-price guarantee for its services. The original monthly subscription for Starlink was $99 monthly with a $499 one-time maintenance fee. But, it increased to its current rate in March 2022. There is no guarantee that Starlink’s service rates won’t increase again. And, while no one knows, they could raise rates again in the future to get fresh revenue as they expand exponentially, gain more subscribers, and perfect their low Earth orbit satellite internet constellation technology.

All Starlink subscribers are expected to self-install their dishes. Starlink dishes are technologically advanced and user-friendly. They are composed of a handful of parts that are easily assembled. After activation, the Starlink dish will autonomously align itself to a point in the sky to ping back and forth with a satellite. If you are uncomfortable with this process, you may need to hire someone to install it for you.

Centurylink offers two internet service packages. Its Simply Unlimited Internet package offers unlimited data, streaming, and multiple device connection at 100 Mbps. The price is just $50 monthly. The company’s Fiber Internet plan is over 20 times faster than the Simply Unlimted Internet plan. It offers customers internet speeds up to 940 Mbps for $70 monthly.

The residential and small business rates are the same price. And, Centurylink promises that its internet network is 99.9% reliable. Installation is part of the package, but you can opt to install your modem to save a few bucks.

Reliability of Service

Centurylink promises that its internet service is up to 99.9% reliable.

Starlink cannot make a similar promise as of yet. In February 2022, a geomagnetic storm disrupted the Earth’s electromagnetic shield. A celestial-sized shockwave released from the sun in the form of the solar wind, or its remnants, slammed into the Earth. This causes a planet-sized transference of energy that momentarily caused the upper atmosphere to become incrementally denser.

This, in turn, caused dozens of Starlink satellites to experience unexpected drag, disrupt their orbital trajectories, and fall and burn up into the Earth’s atmosphere. Until Starlink launches at least 10,000 to 42,000 low Earth orbit satellites, it won’t be able to reliably connect the Earth with uninterrupted satellite internet coverage.

Starlink vs Dish internet
Starlink is not yet as reliable as Centurylink due to atmospheric disturbances that can take place, interfering with the internet connection.

©AlexLMX/Shutterstock.com

Market

Starlink’s business plan is to market its satellite internet services to customers in remote and rural areas and, in the future, the developing world. Starlink is currently reliably available in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Currently, Starlink has 400,000 subscribers globally. The company claims that it will begin installation in some African countries in late 2022. 

However, over one out of every three people on Earth (about 2.9 billion people) has never used the internet. Starlink may be eyeing marketing to this demographic in the future since it would be easier to grant satellite internet access in such areas relative to creating traditional wire-based internet infrastructure from scratch. 

And, by the time Starlink launches 42,000 satellites in space, which could probably take decades, they may be able to do that.

Centurylink is available in 36 states. However, since most traditional internet services are DSL-based, their fiber optic internet services are only available in 19 states. Even with these caveats, Centurylink offers its services to 4.5 million subscribers across the United States.

Starlink’s service is not currently optimal for use in large urban areas, since DSL and fiber optic internet is plentiful and faster.

In the market battle between Starlink vs Centurylink, Centurylink wins due to its higher subscriber base.

Starlink vs. Centurylink: Which One Should You Use?

Unless you live in a remote or rural area with inadequate or nonexistent internet, then we believe that Centurylink is better suited to your internet needs. Centurylink has a traditional internet infrastructure that stretches across 36 states, and its service is cheaper too.

Starlink is just not optimal for use in large, population-dense urban cities. The majority of the world’s DSL and fiber optic internet infrastructure already exists in these environments. Additionally, DSL and fiber optic internet is currently much faster and more reliable than Starlink’s current services.

Starlink is a technologically revolutionary service and may become a standard service in the future. But, the future is not yet here.

These facts may change after Starlink augments its low Earth orbit constellation with the launch of tens of thousands of satellites in the coming decades. Until then, Centurylink is your more reliable option.

Up Next…

Starlink vs. Centurylink: How Do They Compare? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When did commercial satellite internet service first become available?

The first internet service satellite was launched by a French company called Eutelsat in 2003.

How high do Starlink constellation satellites orbit?

Starlink constellation satellites orbit about 300 to 350 miles above Earth.

How high do traditional commercial internet satellites orbit above Earth and how do they differ from Starlink?

Traditional commercial satellite companies orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth in geosynchronous orbit. These companies usually rent usage on large corporate or government satellites.

Traditional internet satellite companies only need two to five such satellites to beam signals to large areas of the Earth because they orbit so high.

Starlink owns its satellites and will launch tens of thousands of smaller satellites in low Earth orbit to guarantee continuous and reliable internet service.

What is the average internet speed in the United States?

The average internet speed in the United States is about 43 Mbps.

What are the drawbacks to renting a modem or other internet equipment from Centurylink?

It may be cheaper to just buy the modem, which has a value of $200, after a year. After that, you are losing money. Also, Centurylink’s “Price for Life” coverage, which guarantees your monthly subscription price won’t increase, does not cover any equipment you rent from them.

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