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Starlink..... Real Talk about Satellite Internet for RVers

There's something about picturing that bright red Tesla orbiting overhead that sparks excitement about Starlink! With SpaceX having placed 2,400+ satellites in low-earth orbit and more to follow, satellite internet has finally become an attainable solution for nomads like us! Matt and I have been considering Starlink satellite internet for a long time as a solution to keep us connected on the road. We finally pulled the trigger and now we're ready to give you the dirt on the components and service!

RV Organization for the New Year (14)

Starlink Options:   '

There are currently four different Starlink options to choose from: Residential, Business, Maritime, and RV.   

Maritime: When it comes to Maritime, think of large oil tankers and premium gigantic yachts, not your average fishing boat in the inlet. This plan is pretty extreme, and has internet speeds with up to 350 Mbps download while at sea, and a pricetag of $5,000 per month plus a $10,000 setup cost.  Yowza!

Business: The business option is pretty self-explanatory, with a higher gain antenna, additional throughput allocation, and better extreme weather performance than plans for individuals. The business plan helps ensure bandwidth for critical operations 24/7, and comes with a price tag to match at $500/month plus a $2,500 setup fee. 

For us, the choice of plans really came down to RV or Residential, with the obvious question being if we were planning to be more mobile or stationary in our travel style. There are pros and cons to each plan, so Matt and I researched the choice thoroughly.

Residential: The residential and RV options are actually the exact same hardware setup. For this option, you need to register a home address, which is where you will receive prioritized service over a portable option. The hardware setup is $599, and the monthly charge is $135, assuming you add on the portability feature to be able to use Starlink even when traveling.

RV: Hardware: identical.  Costs: identical.  The only real difference in this plan is the ability to "pause" the plan month to month. Let's say you plan to travel in urban areas that have great cellular coverage for your hotspots, but little to no coverage for Starlink yet.... just pause your plan! This is ultimately the option we chose, as we travel quite a bit in the Eastern USA where coverage is still being added.

Snip20220730_65Starlink coverage areas via Starlink website as of July 1, 2022.

 

The Unboxing

For those of us who are (attempting to be) minimalists, there is something really exciting about the unboxing experience for an item you've been eagerly awaiting with anticipation! Matt was experiencing Christmas morning vibes when the Starlink box finally appeared and he carefully took out the streamlined components.  It was simple enough, with a base, a flat satellite receiver ("Dishy"), temporary mount, router and a cable. The cable is proprietary to Starlink, although we are currently purchasing a backordered ethernet adapter for this cable, will be much more easily replaced if necessary.  

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Starlink-Dishy-and-RouterIn comparison with other systems we have purchased in the past for satellite TV, this was definitely more streamlined and more easily stored! We were prepared with our storage solution, as we wanted to protect the $599 hardware as we drive down the road! On the official Starlink website, there are options for $250+ for hard cases specifically designed for the hardware.  Alternatively, we chose a hard case from the Home Depot (Husky 12 gallon waterproof container) for just $30, which is the exact correct size for all the components with the package insert from the shipping box.Snip20220730_66

 

The Service

As digital nomads with daily need for video conferencing, streaming and recording, we truly appreciate the elegant solution of satellite internet coverage with speeds up to 250 Mbps (as reported by PCMag.) Until now, we have been quite happy with our cellular data solutions, including redundancies for maximum coverage for hotspots from Visible, Cricket, Verizon, and AT&T as well as a Spectrum home internet package when stationary. With some big travel plans on the horizon and Starlink's availability finally reaching the masses, we wanted to add one last silver bullet to the aresnal for ultimate connectivity no matter where we roam. 

We recently took a round trip up the east coast from Florida to Maine, which was the perfect opportunity to test out our new toy! With stops in Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine, we had the good fortune of many trial connections.  The most obvious lesson we learned straight away was the necessity for an open view of the sky without obstruction from trees, buildings or storm clouds.  This seems simple enough while camping, but proved to be prohibitive at four of our campgrounds. The Starlink router goes inside the RV and the dish needs to be placed outside, so the 75-foot cable does give some leeway in placement on your campsite. Since beautiful tall trees don't thwart cellular coverage, we were still connected without an issue, but it was a bummer to watch "Dishy" founder and fail. 

Throughout our trip, we did note that our Starlink setup was never lonely in the campground; at least one other "Dishy" was visible at each stop. Maine and Massachusetts proved to be the best connection download speeds, between 80-125 Mbps. More populated areas had lower speed connections, between 40-80 Mbps. This is a far cry from the advertised 250 Mbps advertised speeds on Starlink's marketing materials, but still more than adequate for both of us to stream movies, use wifi calling for our phones, video conference, and run our security cameras simultaneously with no issues.  We're fans! 

The Bottom Line

Starlink is a giant step forward for RVers and road trippers needing high-speed connections.  We certainly don't regret the purchase and appreciate the pausing feature (which we are currently exercising now since we are in Florida in a relatively urban and limited-service area.)  We placed our "Dishy" on top of the roof and on the ground stretched across the campground as we tested out our setup, and did not notice a difference in the placement in regards to height. (You should note that even though the "Dishy" can be mounted to the top of your rig, and even if you did super-secure the setup to remain up there during travel days, the service can not be used in motion.)

One more thing to factor into your travel plans is the power usage for Starlink. The system uses about 100 watts per hour, which is not an issue if you're hooked up to a campground pedestal. If you are boondocking, however, you'll need to account for this usage.

In hindsight, we probably could have waited until service catches up to more of the East Coast, as our cellular service currently serves us quite well here. Starlink, however, is waiting in the pass-through for our next adventure, when we'll "un-pause" and enjoy awesome connection speeds! 

We give Starlink 4.5 stars out of 5!  Do you have experience with Starlink? Any tips for ultimate service coverage? We'd love to hear from you in the comments! Please consider subscribing in the green box below so you never miss a post!

Safe travels!

-Emily

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