Regardless of your opinions of Elon Musk, there is no denying that the Starlink satellite internet service, which has been developed with support from Space X, has the potential to fundamentally change the nature of connectivity in the field (we previously covered it in this short article and video).
But until recently, each Starlink dish had to be associated with a static service location, which could not easily be changed. The service was not able to roam. Given this limitation, the Starlink that I purchased about a year ago had sat in storage, collecting dust. But now that roaming has been enabled, I eagerly reinstated my service and took the system on the road (I’m currently using it to publish this article).
Taking Starlink Internet Service on the Road
The FAQ and customer service team were both very clear that the Starlink internet service is not currently intended to be fully functional outside of your designated home service address. Yet in three different locations, I’ve had excellent success establishing a speedy internet connection: in a deep canyon in rural Western Colorado, outside the city limits of Moab, Utah, as well as in Draper, Utah (just south of Salt Lake City).
It’s interesting to note I did receive a notification on the Starlink app (on my smartphone) notifying me that because I was using the system outside of my designated service address, I might experience reduced bandwidth based on satellite availability. In practice, this has still resulted in approximately 80Mbps bandwidth down (12Mbps up), which is more than enough for streaming video services, video calls, and uploading/downloading photos. Generally, I’ve been getting 150Mbps+ download speeds.
Setting up the Starlink System
I have the original Starlink system (purchase price for the hardware in April 2021 was $584, including tax) which consists of a round dish, an AC power block, and a router. I have read from other users that the new square dish has improved performance (versus the original), and can be converted to run directly on DC power.
Setting the system up at camp is very simple:
Step 1: Find a suitable location for the dish with an open view of the sky.
Step 2: Stake the base into the ground to prevent it from blowing over, and attach the dish.
Rough Camp Gear tent stakes secure the Starlink satellite dish for use in windy locations.
Step 3: Plug the system into an AC power source, in my case a Jackery Explorer 1000 battery bank that is powered by two 100-watt solar panels. The power draw from the Starlink has been approximately 70-90 watts, which is outpaced by the 135 watts of solar input from the two panels.
Powering our Starlink internet with the Jackery Explorer 1000 – from left to right: router, AC power brick.
After plugging the system into power, the network connection is usually established within 5 minutes, often less.
Starlink Price, Data Limits, and Opportunities for Improvement
When I originally signed up for the Starlink internet service, the monthly cost was $100 with unlimited data, an incredible value for mobile internet connectivity. According to some readers, that price has increased to $110/month (I will update this information once I have received my first invoice). It seems reasonable to assume that this price may change as more people begin using this resource, and roaming becomes a legitimate feature.
Overall, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the Starlink service with the original circular dish, and I only see one major opportunity for improvement at this time: the ethernet/power cable should be removable from the dish, a feature which may have been changed with the new square model (please let me know in the comments if you have the newer version and if this is an update that has been made).
It’s important to note that my experience and opinions above are based on a limited amount of use in the field. I will continue to utilize the Starlink service and provide updates regarding the service when appropriate.
Starlink Portability Fee (updated May 5th, 2022)
Starlink has recently been sending out emails to existing customers, notifying us of a formalized $25/month portability fee. All users can now manually enable portability on their Starlink account, and it can be turned on and off as needed.
It’s important to note that if you’ve been successfully using Starlink on the road in a roaming capacity, you’ll need to access your account via the Starlink website and select “enable portability” to ensure continued connectivity at sites outside of your service address.
Starlink Internet for RVers and Overlanders (updated May 25th, 2022)
Starlink internet service has recently announced RV functionality. While the hardware appears to be the same, the service can now be utilized/paid for on a month-to-month basis for a flat fee of $135.
Looking for more information about maintaining connectivity while traveling? Check out Ashely Giordano’s article on finding internet service while overlanding.
Looking for ways to install a Starlink in your overland rig or RV? Check out this incredibly comprehensive article published on Tuckstruck.net.
Learn more about Starlink internet service at Starlink.com.
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