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

starlink vs inmarsat

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

For a long time, homeowners and businesses who live outside the range of copper or fiber internet services have had limited choices. Remote or rural locations are notoriously inaccessible for internet connectivity, creating a significant disadvantage for communities that cannot participate in the digital economy. 

Thankfully, the development of satellite internet technology has created a new generation of internet service providers (ISPs) that can deliver a reliable internet connection to even the most remote locations. Windstream and Starlink are leading satellite ISPs that are well worth considering if you are looking for an alternative to DSL, cable, or fiber broadband. 

If you want to learn more about satellite internet and how it could help you, this article compares Starlink and Windstream so that you can evaluate which provider will be right for your home. 

Starlink vs. Windstream: A Side-by-Side Comparison

What is it?Satellite internet service provider (ISP)DSL and fiber internet service provider (ISP)
Primary UseBroadband internet accessBroadband internet access
Initial Release20192006
Influential DevelopersElon Musk
Greg Wyler
Gwynne Shotwell
Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL)
Anthony W. Thomas
Valor Communications Group
Alltel Wireless 
GTE Corporation
Frequency Bands UsedKu- and Ka- N/A
Max Uplink SpeedUp to 40 MbpsUp to 1 Gbps
Max Downlink SpeedUp to 350 MbpsUp to 1 Gbps
Latency 20 – 40 ms27 ms
Data Limits?NoNo
Monthly Subscription $75$75
Additional Fees$460 equipment costs$35 installation fee
Equipment Provided Base station 
Mobile app
Home router
Locations Available40 countries18 states in the U.S.

Starlink has fast become the world’s foremost satellite internet service provider, with a unique high-speed and low-latency service provided to over 500,000 subscribers as of 2021. The company is owned by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s satellite and spacecraft manufacturer. The current low-orbit satellite constellation includes 3,000 satellites that provide internet coverage for up to 40 countries. 

Starlink is based in Redmond, Washington where the satellite constellation was manufactured and continues to be maintained and controlled. The size of the constellation is still growing and SpaceX intends to launch up to 20,000 satellites to provide unrivaled coverage and quality of service.

The sheer number of satellites that are part of Starlink has prompted concern from astronomers and other space scientists that their orbit could obscure the views of stars and other heavenly bodies. However, the small satellites that Starlink uses have reduced brightness and automatically de-orbit at the end of their usable life. SpaceX continuously tracks them, uploading data the satellites can use to prevent collisions.

The low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite technology that Starlink uses was originally developed for intercepting ballistic cruise missiles. It was then adapted for satellite-to-Earth telecommunications in the 1990s. However, high costs prevented companies from bringing a consumer satellite internet solution to market. 

During the early 2000s, Elon Musk’s SpaceX made several acquisitions related to satellite telecommunications with collaboration on a 700-satellite internet company called WorldVu in 2014. The same year Space X applied to the Norwegian telecommunications regulator to create a satellite network called STEAM. They later changed the name to Starlink.

Starlink progressed towards its launch between 2016 and 2020 with an investment of over $10 billion from SpaceX. In 2017, SpaceX filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite system transferring data over the Ku- and Ka- frequency bands.

Starlink launched its first satellites in 2019. In 2021 2,300 satellites had been deployed and Starlink’s broadband internet was released to the public on pre-order.

satellites in musk's starlink
Starlink strives to bring internet access to millions of people in rural areas where there is no access to the internet.


Starlink has quickly become a beloved satellite internet service provider. It out-competes competitors on speed, latency, and bandwidth, using the world’s largest low Earth orbit satellite constellation. Unlike other satellite ISPs, Starlink is ideal for streaming, video calls, and gaming with download speeds of up to 350 Mbps. 

Starlink also provides a portability add-on, ideal for RV users and other subscribers that are on the move. With no on-the-ground infrastructure, subscribers can get satellite internet in the most remote locations on Earth. With this feature, the service can be paused and unpaused as required.

Starlink is competitively priced and contract-free with a flat monthly $75 fee and a one-off hardware fee of around $569. Starlink also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Starlink provides subscribers with a plug-and-play hardware kit that includes:

  • Base and mount: this proprietary base station receives the Starlink satellite signal and needs maximum exposure to the open sky.
  • Wi-Fi router: the Starlink router is a Wi-Fi 5 router meaning you have high bandwidth connectivity for all your home’s devices.
  • Cables
  • Starlink app: Starlink has its own smartphone app allowing you to change or update your Starlink connection, customize settings, and get performance data for your network. You can also use the app to find the best location for your base and help you with your setup. 

What is Windstream?

Windstream is an internet service provider that is owned by Windstream Holdings, Inc, a U.S. telecommunications company. It is also known as Windstream Communications and has subsidiaries that include Kinectic and DirecTV. Alongside voice and data network communications, Windstream also provides virtual servers, data storage, and firewall services to enterprise customers internationally. 

Windstream is the U.S.’ ninth largest residential telephone provider, serving over 8 million people in 21 states. Its internet-only services are offered in 18 U.S. states and the company has built up a reputation for providing internet access in rural and remote areas.

The History of Windstream

Windstream was founded in 2006 through the merger of Valor Communications Group and Alltel Wireless. Anthony W. Thomas is the President, Director, and CEO of Windstream and has been in the position since 2014. 

Windstream was rocked by a bond default and subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 but has come back stronger with the launch of Kinetic that same year.

A Rural Internet Service Provider 

Kinetic builds on Windstream’s reputation for providing copper internet coverage in rural states (think Alabama, Arkansas, or South Carolina). This has gained them a competitive edge in areas where options are limited or satellite-only. 

Windstream Kinetic offers some of the fastest speeds you can get in rural areas with competitively priced plans that are contract-free. There are no data limits or speed throttling either, which is not always easy to find from a rural ISP. 

The majority of Windstream’s coverage is DSL-based but they are also expanding their fiber service that offers speeds of up to 1 Gbps. This is mostly available in the towns and cities of the 18 states they cover. 

Otherwise, their DSL-tiered packages offer speeds of up to 50 Mbps. Though this is not fast, a rural homeowner can expect consistent service, lower costs, and a better quality connection than many satellite providers.

windstream communications
Windstream offers reliable internet connection no matter where you are in the world.

©Piotr Swat/Shutterstock.com

Windstream Costs and Hardware

Windstream offers four internet-only plans. Its cheapest plan, Kinetic 50, has an introductory price of $30 per month, rising to $55 after one year. The fiber package with 1 Gbps is $69.99 rising to $85 per month. Kinetic provides Wi-Fi routers and mesh networking for an additional $10 per month and has a $35 set-up fee to get you started.

These two ISPs could not be any more different! Once is coming through your phone line, while the other is beaming in from the heavens. But, seriously, Starlink offers advanced satellite telecommunications technology that has the potential for global coverage, while, though reliable, the DSL technology used by Windstream is at least 30 years old.

However, if you are out in the Boondocks and want any internet connectivity, you’ll be thankful for either option. Both offer some of the fastest internet speeds and bandwidth available to rural homes and business owners can have reassuringly consistent service. Starlink has the edge on coverage if you are in one of the 40 countries covered, you will get internet activity in even the most obscure and forgotten locations. 

Similarities and Differences


  • Starlink and Windstream are both ISPs.
  • Starlink and Windstream both provide their services to customers in remote and rural areas. 
  • Both Starlink and Windstream do not use data caps or usage limits.
  • Both Windstream and Starlink do not use throttling.
  • Both ISPs are contract-free.


  • Starlink provides satellite-based internet, and Windstream uses DSL or fiber in certain areas.
  • Starlink provides wireless internet access, and Windstream requires a wired connection. 
  • Starlink offers maximum residential internet speeds of 200 Mbps while Windstream offers speeds of up to 1 Gbps for fiber connectivity.
  • Starlink is available in more than 40 countries while Windstream is limited to 18 states in the U.S.
  • Windstream offers multiple tiered price plans that rise after the first 12 months.
  • Windstream has installation costs of $35 while the Starlink kit currently costs $460.
  • Starlink has a flat-rate $75 monthly subscription fee.
  • Windstream has tiered internet-only packages with pricing up to $69.99 per month.

Starlink is one of the world’s most advanced ISP with exceptional utility that goes beyond basic home broadband. Below is an outline of the full scope of Starlink’s applications.

Residential Broadband Internet

Starlink’s home internet is a unique offering that operates differently from competitors in its sector. Individual orbiting geostationary satellites have high latency because of the long distances data has to travel between the satellite and transceiver. Starlink has thousands of satellites covering the globe in a low orbit, massively reducing the latency and increasing bandwidth to support streaming and other activity with high data consumption.

Phased array antennas on the satellites and base stations are self-orienting for optimal connection performance at all times. The base station is robust and will withstand the worst any weather throws at it.


Starlink’s business internet package provides enterprises with double the antenna capacity of the residential service, for high throughput data transfer. It is extremely reliable and performs consistently, even in extreme weather. Starlink’s service agreement ensures that the business has bandwidth for critical operations at all times, with priority support to ensure zero downtime.


Starlink is a novel solution for internet connectivity at sea with ultra-fast speeds of up to 350 Mbps across the world. It is a solution that can provide mariners with the connectivity needed to stay in touch with loved ones whilst far from home. Starlink can be installed on fishing vessels, merchant shipping, yachts, and pleasure boats for hassle-free, super-fast connectivity with rugged hardware that has a low footprint and withstands harsh marine conditions.


Starlink’s broadband internet even extends to the aviation sector with high-speed internet connectivity for private and commercial aviation. The global coverage of Starlink means that in-flight internet can be used right around the globe and has ample bandwidth for all passengers to use it.

Starlink’s aviation technology includes an electronically steered phased array antenna that maintains an optimal connection at all times. All hardware is discrete and easily installed.

Honestly, these are two completely different technologies with a massive difference in scope and performance. Starlink is much more than a home internet company and has a sophisticated offering that can support business and other niche applications. 

If you have access to Windstream’s DSL or fiber connectivity, it is going to be the cheap and consistent option, with speeds that are adequate for everyday internet use. If you are out of Windstream’s coverage, take a serious look at Starlink because it is cheaper than many other satellite options and offers a high-speed connection wherever you are in the world. 

  • Starlink’s satellites orbit the Earth at about 550km.
  • Starlink is capable of global coverage (subject to licensing agreements with domestic telecommunications regulators).
  • The low orbit of Starlink satellites keeps latency low, at less than 20 ms. 
  • Windstream’s DSL option is popular with many rural property owners.
  • Windstream is currently expanding its fiber network to provide a better quality of service in rural areas. 
  • If you have Windstream DSL and fiber comes to your area, you can upgrade free for three months with a $30 per month increase if you choose to continue.

Final Thoughts

Both Starlink and Windstream have given rural property and business owners more options for internet access. However, Starlink has a much broader coverage scope and utility. If you can get DSL from Windstream on your property, it’s going to be the cheaper choice for setup and monthly subscription. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet provides internet access using telecommunications satellites. This technology has been available since the 1990s using geostationary (GEO) satellites that follow the Earth’s orbit. Newer technology like Starlink uses low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that have lower latency and increase downlink speeds. 

Satellite internet connectivity requires:

  • A satellite: newer technology creates smaller satellites with powerful, laser-controlled antenna arrays
  • Gateways: base stations that act as transceivers, receiving and transmitting internet data
  • Subscriber base stations and transceivers for consumer internet access
  • A user modem that receives data from the subscriber’s base station 
  • A network operations center that monitors and controls the satellite constellation and oversees data exchange. This central hub contains a process that all data in the satellite network moves through.

What are the Ka and Ku frequency bands?

The Ka and Ku frequency bands are key frequency bands used for satellite telecommunications. The Ku band has been long established as a frequency band for satellite internet data exchange and the Ku band has been recently introduced for additional bandwidth.

Ka-band features:

  • Frequency band: 26.5 to 40 GHz range
  • High availability
  • High bitrate per Hz (efficient)
  • High throughput (speed)
  • Moderate antenna cost
  • Low power requirement

Ku-band features:

  • Frequency band: 12 to 18 GHz range
  • High availability
  • Low bitrate per Hz (less efficient)
  • Low throughput (speed)
  • High antenna costs
  • High  power requirement

The Ka-band is a much higher frequency and can cope with higher data throughput for high-speed connectivity. It is also cheaper, has lower power requirements, and is used with smaller antennas. However, the Ku band is more resilient against fading because of the ionosphere and adverse weather. 

Which states have Windstream coverage?

Windstream fiber and DSL internet is available in 18 states:

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

What is DSL?

Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, is the internet connectivity you get through an ethernet cable and modem. ISPs usually set it up to be routed into the home through the telephone line. It is the oldest, most established, and most prevalent form of broadband internet access. 

DSL sends signals via the phone line at a different frequency than regular phone calls. The attached modem can change the electrical signal into usable data. Because DSL uses phone lines it can provide coverage in rural and remote areas, as long as a telephone line is present. 

DSL offers speeds of up to 100 Mbps, making it a reliable option for consistent internet access. It is also cost-effective compared to cellular, satellite, or fixed wireless internet.

Are there any other internet technologies for rural areas?

Though options are generally limited for rural property and business users, they have two additional options for internet coverage in remote or rural areas:

Mobile internet is another wireless form of internet access that uses the cellular network to provide high-speed internet coverage to rural communities. To use the internet, homeowners use a hotspot or cellular router to exchange data over the mobile network. Cellular home internet packages are available from the leading mobile network operators. 

Fixed wireless internet uses a fixed wireless link between two antennas to send data over long distances. A broadcast antenna exchanges data with a wired (fiber or copper) backhaul providing internet service. Subscribers have an antenna erected at height to receive the signal and use the internet.

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