Starlink for RV & Boat Internet
Satellite internet is rapidly evolving, and the most prominent new mobile internet option for RV and Boat connectivity is SpaceX's Starlink. This insanely ambitious low earth orbit satellite constellation launched by Elon Musk with the goal of delivering broadband satellite internet to even the most remote locations on Earth, and eventually even to Mars.
Many have discovered that Starlink can work great in a "portable" fashion for RV use - as long as you understand the compromises and trade-offs inherent at this phase of Starlink's deployment.
Unfortunately, Starlink continues to shift and change its service offerings and terms of service, often without grandfathering existing customers, so what was great yesterday may not be so tomorrow.
We have been tracking the development of Starlink since the constellation was first proposed back in 2015, through the launch of prototype satellites in 2018 and 2019, and through the limited public beta launch in 2020.
In February 2021 SpaceX began to allow anyone to put down a deposit to pre-order Starlink service, but even though the beta period is now seemingly over - Starlink is still under active development and has a LONG way to go before it is fully deployed and has coverage & capacity everywhere.
As of early 2023, SpaceX has over 3500 satellites in operation. The phase 1 constellation consists of 4,396 Starlink satellites, which will be followed by an additional 7,518 Phase 2 satellites and then a proposed additional 30,000 next generation satellites after that.
Building a satellite constellation this large is a truly audacious undertaking.
But the ultimate goal is to be able to provide fast, affordable, low-latency internet - anywhere in the world with a clear view of the sky.
Starlink internet is a dream come true for many nomads who travel by RV, Boat, or any other form of travel and frequently out of cell service.
But Starlink is not without its limitations - even Elon Musk has frequently warned that Starlink is best thought of as a complement and not a replacement for cellular networks, pointing out that:
"Starlink is designed for low to medium population density, which means we can hit max users in some areas fast."
This guide will help you understand when and where Starlink makes sense to add to your RV or boat connectivity arsenal and we share some critical tips for putting Starlink to use in a mobile environment, dealing with the systems limitations and inevitable frustrations.
This guide is focused on Starlink for RV and boat use in particular, and will be constantly kept up to date by our team as this topic continues to develop.
There are already existing satellite mobile internet options out there, and there are other next-generation Starlink competitors in the works too.
For a bigger picture look at all of the present and proposed mobile satellite internet options for RV and boat use, be sure to checkin out our Mobile satellite options guide.
Mobile Satellite Internet Resources
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May 2, 2023 Update: Starlink has rolled out a bunch of plan changes for Standard, Priority, Mobile & Mobile Priority. This Starlink content is in progress of being updated to reflect the changes. For all of the changes: Starlink Revamp Plans & Services
Starlink Gear Center
Our Starlink Gear Center goes into the technical details about the various versions and revisions of the Dishy that have been shipped out to date to customers.
Starlink Terms Defined
There are some rather unusual terms that are mentioned frequently when discussing Starlink. Here is a quick glossary that can help make sense of them all:
- Dishy McFlatface - SpaceX's original official name for the Starlink receiver is (seriously!) "Dishy McFlatface", or "Dishy" for short. It's now just called the 'Standard' dish. Unlike most traditional satellite systems, the Starlink Dishy is not just a passive antenna, and it contains inside of it an advanced phased array antenna system and all of the electronic brains of the system. The indoor companion unit is just a basic Wi-Fi router for sharing the connection, it is the outdoor Dishy that is doing all the work.
- Cell - SpaceX has divided the world into service cells that are roughly 15 miles across, and not all cells are turned on for service - and others may be capacity constrained. Many older satellite systems didn't care where you were on the ground - but with Starlink the cell you are in can ultimately matter a lot. Unfortunately - determining cell boundaries is a matter of guesswork since SpaceX has never published a Starlink coverage map.
- Portability / Roaming - Roaming referred to as service portability by Starlink allows Starlink systems to connect even when away from their assigned service address. Service portability was officially released in May 2022 as a monthly add-on to Starlink Residential subscription charged on a month to month basis, but was discontinued by April 2023 as a feature add-on. Instead Starlink released several plans with roaming built into them.
- Portability was discontinued for US Residential Service customers who did not have it active at the time of the policy/TOS change Feb 21, 2023.
- Portability was discontinued for all other residential customers around the world who didn't have it activated on April 28th, 2023. The good news is Starlink also confirmed in email that users that were grandfathered in get to keep their portability until they change plans, but it is now being charged as part of their grandfathered plan vs an optional feature.
- For new customers, they can now only get roaming capabilities on a Roam/Mobility plan.
- LEO - Starlink satellites orbit much closer to the earth than most satellites, just 200 to 350 miles above the surface. This is known as LEO (Low Earth Orbit), in contrast to the geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO) more commonly used by communication satellites that are locked into seemingly fixed locations in the sky 22,236 miles above the equator.
- Ground Station - Since Starlink satellites orbit so close to the earth, they need a lot of ground stations every few hundred miles to use as an uplink to the internet. In countries or areas without ground stations, Starlink satellites (currently) can not communicate.
- Space Lasers - SpaceX is equipping future Starlink satellites with laser interconnects that will allow satellites to communicate with each other directly, able to act as relays to allow for coverage globally regardless of where ground stations are located. We'll explain more about how this works later in this guide.
Starlink RV & Boat Internet News Coverage
Starlink is evolving rapidly.
Here are the latest news stories we have published here at the Mobile Internet Resource Center on this always developing topic:
- Starlink Revamps Its Plans & Service Priority Levels - Big Impacts For Mobile Users Posted on: May 3, 2023
- Starlink Confirms Residential + Portability is Grandfathered for Existing Customers Posted on: April 28, 2023
- Starlink Adds Option to Change From Roam to Residential Service Posted on: April 27, 2023
- Starlink Introduces Its Most Affordable Maritime Data Plan Yet: $250/mo for 50GB Priority Global Data Posted on: April 19, 2023
- Starlink Business Adds Two New Tiers Of Service Posted on: March 17, 2023
Explore our Starlink Resource Collection:
Starlink for RV & Boat Video
Here's a quick video recapping the highlights of this guide with an overview Starlink and using it in a portable RV or boat environment.
Starlink History on Hardware and Service Plans
Demand for Starlink in the US has vastly outpaced supply since SpaceX began accepting $99 deposit pre-orders in February 2021.
Some people who placed pre-orders that very first day are still waiting for notification that they can actually place a Starlink order - while other people are finding it easy to get a Starlink system ordered today with near immediate shipping.
This frustration is because the network only has capacity for a limited number of connected customers per cell. So customers with deposits are basically just holding their place in line based on their service address - and one address might be stuck waiting for years, while 15 miles away service might be available this week.
One unique aspect to the nomadic lifestyle is that most RVers and boaters generally don't have a fixed address that they specifically need permanent Starlink service at - so technically anywhere in the US can be used as a service address and now with mobile plans allowing global coverage, Starlink has become a pretty common name around RVers and boaters.
Quick Starlink History on Plans
Starlink first started becoming available with an email invite around Jan 2021 with Starlink offering Residential service at certain US addresses at fixed locations only. Only about a month later in Feb 2021, Starlink opened pre-orders to anyone with a $99 deposit.
By April 2021, it was discovered Starlink quietly added the ability to move your service address finally making it somewhat nomad friendly and some nomads became early adopters learning how to navigate the trial and error to find open service locations you could actually use your Starlink.
Over the next year, Starlink kept expanding and by March 2022, Starlink finally had service covering the lower 48 states and had enabled portability (roaming) for all residential dishes which meant they could be used anywhere in their country and it didn't matter where your service address was and not surprisingly Starlink started charging $25 for portability in early May of 2022
In late May 2022, Starlink officially released the Starlink For RVs line of service (rebranded to Starlink Roam in Mar 2023 and rebranded again to Starlink Mobile in May 2023) that allows immediate order without any assigned service address and always being subject to deprioritized service. The Starlink Mobile service is unique in that you can pause the service when you are not using it which was the first service to allow this option.
In February 2023, Starlink changed some terms of service and changed its rates, including discontinuing Portability for new Residential US customers and existing customers who did not have it active at the time of the changes. For now, those lucky customers can keep it until they turn it off. See or Big Starlink Changes for our story on this
In March 2023, Starlink rebranded Starlink For RVs to Starlink Roam and added a 2nd tier of service creating Starlink Roam Regional for $150/mo and Starlink Roam Global for $200/mo.
in April 2023, Starlink removed portability as a feature all together for all new customers, but they sent an email notifying active users they were grandfathered in until they changed their plan and then it was gone forever.
In April 2023, Starlink also created the ability for users to switch between various Starlink plans: Starlink Residential, Starlink Roam (Regional / Global), and Starlink Maritime / Mobility 50GB (with the appropriate dish)
- Roaming customers can stay connected anywhere on land in their continent or worldwide depending on their plan.
- Maritime / Mobility 50GB customers can stay connected anywhere on the open ocean and land and also have certain limits depending on their location.
- Residential customers have connection a their service address, but are also allowed to move their service address to have priority service in other locations when available. If no service is available, they may switch to the Roam service instead.
- Customers can switch between the various plans as needed.
In May 2023, Starlink renamed all their plans made significant changes to its plans and priority levels as reported in our story - Starlink Revamps Its Plans & Service Priority Levels - Big Impacts For Mobile Users. We'll mention the basic changes below of the new names and what they previously were.
- Standard - Replacing Starlink Residential.
- Priority - Replacing Starlink Business.
- Mobile - Replacing Starlink Roam, which recently replaced Starlink RV. Supports "Portability" but not full time in-motion usage.
- Mobile Priority - Replacing in-motion usage of Starlink Roam, and replacing Starlink Maritime.
While Starlink renamed the plans behind the scenes, when you choose to order Starlink, you are still presented with the similar names of the use case that best fits your need and these are Residential, Business, Roam, Mobility, Maritime, Aviation, & IOT. Each option takes you to the appropriate plan that is supported for that use case.
The fixed location plans under Standard & Priority are billed monthly without the ability to pause while the mobile plans can pause billing (but only in full month increments) when they are not needed.
Starlink Hardware Versions
Starlink is currently offering 3 types of dishy's depending on the Starlink service you subscribe to. The original rectangle dish has become the standard dish available for Starlink Standard & Starlink Mobile at the base $599 price.
SpaceX currently offers three Starlink receiver options:
- Standard - $599, stalk mounted. Not (officially) useable in motion.
- High Performance - $2,500, stalk mounted. Not (officially) useable in motion.
- Flat High Performance - $2,500, flat mounted. Officially useable in motion.
Starlink now also has two versions of the High Performance Dish, one with a pole and motors and a flat one with no motors and the only dish approved for in-motion use. Each of these are $2500 and are required on select plans.
The more expensive $2500 HP dishes (flat or with pole) are the only equipment choice when choosing any of the priority plans for a business user or any of the mobile priority plans for a Mobility or Maritime customer
Starlink Priority under the Business use case requires the regular High Performance dish with the pole.
The Starlink Mobile plans (Regional & Global) can be purchased with the standard dish for $599 only. The Starlink Mobile Priority 50GB plan can be purchased with either the standard dish or the optional flat high performance dish with no motors. However if a user selects the $2500 flat mount dish as their equipment, their only plan option is the mobile priority 50GB plan. This is change from past behavior where the standard mobile plans could also purchase the flat HP dish optionally.
While Starlink may force certain dish choices with certain plans on their webpage, once you have an account with a dish and a plan, you can move up and down in plans as desired and are not limited to certain plans because of the dish you own.
Evolution of hardware
The original dishy was a round dish which was sold for about a year before being replaced by the 2nd generation rectangular dish.
This second-generation standard Starlink receiver is notably rectangular in shape, as opposed to the round original Dishy.
The generation 2 standard Dishy (see our news story) is smaller than the first generation dish, at 19" x 12". It weighs nearly 7 lbs less too - just 9.2 lbs. This more compact body size makes the second generation Dishy a lot easier to pack up and store in an RV.
Also new - the cord between the indoor router (which is now integrated into the power supply) and outdoor Dishy is now removable and replaceable, as opposed to the fixed cord that was permanently attache to the original Dishy design.
The new Dishy is more power efficient too - and will be a better match for use in off-grid solar-power installations.
Performance-wise - according to SpaceX the original Dishy and the next generation rectangle one should be essentially identical.
For anyone shopping for a used Starlink - the smaller size and removable cord of the rectangular Dishy make it a lot easier to use in a portable fashion where you set up at each new location. The older round Dishy receivers (especially the very early ones with black legs) will be more limited in this regard.
The one downside to note of the standard starlink dishes is that the router that pairs with the rectangular Dishy doesn't offer built-in Ethernet, which means those wanting to integrate with another router or other wired devices will have to purchase an additional ($25) Ethernet Adapter.
The HP dish both in both the pole version and the flat version are similar to the original round dish in that they have a separate power brick for the dish that allows you to actually bypass the router with more typical ethernet cables and not needing the priority ethernet adapter like the standard dish.
Please note that all current versions of the dishy's use proprietary connectors to connect to the dish itself.
We cover more in depth hardware differences in the Starlink Gear Center.
Starlink Mobile Versions
on Oct 25, 2022, the long-expected flat-mounted Starlink system that can be officially used in motion on land-based vehicles was finally released, providing connectivity to RVers both underway and while camping in even the most remote locations.
The bad news - the required Flat High Performance Starlink receiver costs $2,500, a substantial hike from the $599 Starlink Standard system that has been offered to RVers and residential purchasers in the past.
Here are the key traits of the Flat High Performance receiver, compared with the Starlink Standard:
- In-Motion Usage: The High Performance Starlink receiver is designed, and FCC certified for in-motion usage. The Starlink Standard system only unofficially supports in-motion usage, and Starlink has made moves toward blocking this capability.
- Size: The Starlink Standard is a 20.2" x 11.9" rectangle, sitting on top of a 13.5" tall stalk with auto-aiming motors to angle the "Dishy" receiver roughly northward for optimal reception. The Flat High Performance receiver is a much larger square - 22.7" x 20.1", but only 1.6" thick - and it has no moving parts and does not need to be aimed.
- Environmental Rating: The Starlink Standard is IP54 rated, meaning it is "Protected against water splashed from all directions." Basically, it is ready for rain. The High Performance receiver is IP56 rated, meaning it is "Protected against strong jets of water, e.g. on ship's deck."
- Snow Melt: The Starlink Standard can melt 1.5" of snow an hour, the High Performance unit can handle 3" an hour. For winter usage in extreme environments, this might prove to be significant.
- Temperature Extremes: Both units are rated for -30°C to 50°C (-22°F to 122°F) - but the Standard receiver slows down as it warms up. The High Performance receiver should be able to handle the heat much better.
- Wind Rating: The Standard receiver is rated to handle 50 mph winds, which is likely one of the reasons it is not intended to be mounted on vehicles in motion. It just can't handle highway speeds. The Flat High Performance receiver, on the other hand, is designed for winds up to 174 mph, ready to ride out a hurricane.
- Field of View: This is the critical difference - the Starlink Standard receiver can track satellites across 100° of the sky, which is why it performs best if it can point towards the north where Starlink satellites are more clustered in the sky in most of North America. The Flat High Performance receiver, on the other hand, has a 140° field of view, meaning that it can see a substantially larger view of the sky - eliminating the need for aiming motors and allowing the receiver to track more satellites at once.
All of those advantages, however, come with some significant disadvantages:
- Power Consumption: The Starlink Standard receiver can use 35-75 Watts of power while in operation. The High Performance system uses 65 - 150 Watts. This is a substantial hit to any off-grid power budget, especially compared to the power required for cellular connectivity. Neither system officially supports DC-powered operation either, requiring AC power to run.
And, of course - the biggest disadvantage for some is the list price, $2,500 versus $599.
Because of this substantial price differential - we expect SpaceX will continue to offer the Starlink Standard system to RVers and residential customers.
Starlink Costs For Hardware and Plans
The standard Starlink hardware is the same price for standard or mobile service, but some people get caught by surprise by the shipping cost, mobile vs standard service, or the need to pay extra for an Ethernet adapter. Some plans have the option of the more expensive $2500 HP dish while other plans require you to purchase this dish as the default dish.
This image breaks down what to expect when ordering a Starlink system with the standard hardware - $599 for hardware, $50 for shipping, your local sales tax and then the monthly service fee which can depend on the services you subscribe to and your service address location (note services prices have changed).
Quick Summary of all plans costs
Starlink has two fixed location plans and two mobile based plans that cover a wide range of options for the Starlink user. These plans differ in assigned location plans vs roaming options that work anywhere and various network tiers of data. Some have unlimited data while others have limited priority data.
- Starlink Standard - $90/$120 per month (standard - middle tier) - Unlimited Standard data
- Starlink Priority - $250/$500/$1500 per month (priority - highest tier) - Limited Priority data - drops to unlimited standard data or $.50/GB for more priority data.
- Starlink Mobile - $150/$200 per month (mobile - lowest tier) - Unlimited basic data - Optional opt in priority data for $2/GB
- Starlink Mobile Priority $250/$1000/$5000 per month (mobile priority - highest tier) - Limited priority data and required for all in-motion or ocean data - drops to unlimited mobile on land data or $2/GB for more priority data or in-motion or ocean use data.
Most Common Use Cases For These Plans
- Standard - Fixed location plan generally for residential customers with minimal travel needs and most affordable plan
- Priority - Fixed location plan for business users and high demand users needing priority data at specific locations
- Mobile - Mobile plan for nomadic customers roaming around their country, continent, or the world for land use only. No longer includes in-motion usage or ocean usage
- Mobile Priority - Starlink's flagship plan for mobile users on RVs and boats needing priority data around the world including in-motion and ocean data usage.
All Starlink plans ordered directly from Starlink begin billing 14 days after your equipment ships and billing continues until you cancel it, which you can do at anytime with no contract. Fixed location plans cannot be paused*, while mobile plans can be paused.
When service is paused, it continues until the end of your current billing cycle and then service begins immediately on the day you unpause and that becomes your new billing date.
Behind the scenes, SpaceX has three tiers of Starlink network priority that these plans map to and which predict Starlink's expected performance, particularly during peak hours and in areas where the Starlink network is congested:
- Mobile / Best Effort - Unlimited data. Always at a lower priority than other plans. 5-50 Mbps Download, 2-10 Mbps Upload.
- Standard - Unlimited data. 25-100 Mbps Download, 5-10 Mbps Upload.
- Priority / Mobile Priority - Priority usage capped based on your particular service plan, though additional priority data can be purchased. 40-220 Mbps Download, 8-25 Mbps Upload.
Starlink Standard Service for Residential Customers
The Standard Starlink service is Starlink's most affordable service plan option starting at $90/month for US based customers. The monthly service fee for the Starlink Standard service for residential customers is $90/month for customer in excess capacity areas and $120/mo for customers in limited capacity areas.
This plans allows unlimited standard data (middle tier) at your service address. While this service has an assigned address, the service address can be moved to any location in your country with capacity.
Although Starlink never moved forward with the plan to limit Starlink Standard data at 1TB, the TOS was updated to reflect that people who continually exceed what is typically allocated to a residential user, Starlink may take network management measures to mitigate disruption to other Starlink users.
Even though Starlink Standard is considered a fixed location plan, nomads who are looking for the cheapest Starlink plan available and don't mind the manual process, can take advantage of the option to move your service address around to locations you travel to and want standard data at, if there is capacity available. This can help maintain a higher tier of network service over Starlink Mobile customers on the lowest tier.
However, for or any customers who wants to be able to use their service at any location regardless of capacity, you must subscribe to a mobile service or bump up to the mobile service plan when you can't move your service address due to capacity issues.
How To Move Your Service Address
Starlink Standard is still "portable" in that your service address is able to be moved by you anywhere in your country as long as there is immediate availability - as shown on the Starlink map - or there is capacity to allow your service address to be moved there.
When you attempt to move your service address under your account, you will be shown a warning that states "Due to high demand, you may not be able to reconnect your current address."
If you leave your current service address and it's an at-capacity cell, someone else will most likely take your spot and you can't move your service address back until there is an opening.
If the area you are trying to move your service address to is at capacity or not available, Starlink will alert you when you submit the request, and your service address will remain unchanged.
You cannot be without a service address with residential service, so there is no risk in trying to move your service as long as you are okay giving up your current location. If your move is not successful, your service address remains where it was.
Even if your service address move is successful, if you truly wanted to move it back right away, chances are no one is going to take your spot that quickly. But the longer you are away from your former service address, the more likely it is that someone will fill that slot.
Starlink Priority Service for Business Users and Higher Demand Users
Starlink Priority plans are focussed on business users or higher demand users. These plans are similar to the Standard plans, but offer top tier priority service at a fixed location with a limited amount of priority data in 3 different price plans to fit your needs.
Starlink Priority plans also offer a public IP address option that can be toggled on and off under your account settings.
Starlink Priority is the highest tier fixed location plan that comes in 1TB/$250, 2TB/$500, or 6TB/$1500 per month options giving top tier priority data for land based locations with an assigned service address. Once users exhaust priority data, they revert down to unlimited standard data for the remaining of their billing cycle unless they purchase more priority date at $.50/GB.
Starlink Mobile Service for Roam Customers
Starlink Mobile service is available to Roam customers at $150/mo or $200/mo for the two options of Starlink Mobile service. The two Starlink Mobile plans offer unlimited deprioritized data for land use only and differ between in continent use for the regional option or global plan which is available to use on any continent.
These plans are aimed at the nomadic user during times of travel that they want the plan to work anywhere they are on land without worrying about availability.
Both mobile plans are subject to "best effort" (lowest tier) which means it can be deprioritized (network managed). Your data is unlimited mobile data that is unthrottled in that it's never slowed down based on the amount of data you use, but can be slowed down or even disconnected based on network congestion at the time of use. This means that you may need be concerned in current waitlist cells and during high traffic times, otherwise your service should be pretty good.
Starlink Mobile customers on the $150/$200 month service plans have the option to opt-in to mobile priority service (top tier) at $2/GB.
You can opt-in and opt-out at any time and the change takes effect in about 15 mins. This option gives these users the highest priority data over other mobile and standard customers and access to in-motion or ocean data and only have to pay for the priority data you use while that option is turned on.
If you want in-motion use or ocean use on any continent with these lower tier mobile plans or you just want some priority service for a limited amount of time, you have to opt-in at a $2/GB from one of the lower tier plans to Starlink Mobile Priority giving you top tier priority service.
Starlink Mobile Priority Plans for Maritime & Mobility Customers
The Mobile Priority plans are also part of the highest tier plans, but the same as fixed location priority plans, the mobile priority plans also have a fixed amount of priority data.
These Mobile Priority service plans are the default plans for Maritime & Mobility customers and also come in 3 tiers of service (50GB/$250, 1TB/$1000, 5TB/$5000).
The mobile priority plans give priority data needed for in-motion use or open ocean locations (black hexagons on the Starlink map) and unlimited data (only after the priority data is exhausted) while in land locations (blue hexagons) before they revert to mobile data (lowest tier).
Mobile Priority customers on land who exhaust their priority data revert to mobile data with unlimited deprioritized data on land only. If a Mobile Priority customer is on the ocean (black hexagon) and exhausts their priority data, they will be cut-off completely except for access to Starlink.com and will have to purchase more priority data at $2/GB to continue to have service.
Mobile Priority customers who have exhausted their priority data or mobile customers that haven't opted it no mobile priority will gain unlimited deprioritized data once they are back in a blue hexagon area on the Starlink map.
Starlink Standard + Portability (deprecated plan no longer available)
Starlink residential customers used to be able to add portability (roaming) to their plans.
Portability for Starlink Standard accounts (residential service) was discontinued for all new customers by the end of April 2023. Those that had it at the time of of discontinuation are grandfathered in on a Starlink Standard + Portability plan, but all new customers must seek a mobile based plan to use Starlink as they travel.
Customers who were grandfathered in on to their portability and had their service address in an excess capacity area at the time of the change should see a reduced price of $115/mo due to the $90/mo basic charge while other standard + portability customers who were in a limited capacity area at the time of the change will pay $145/mo until they change their plan.
Going forward, the portability plan price will not change based on your service address and capacity of that area. You are grandfathered in at whatever price was active at the time of the change ($115 or $145).
All services except for standard and priority have the advantage of being able to pause your service when not in use. (Please note partial months are not prorated). The standard and priority plans are not able to officially be paused.
How To Order Starlink
Ordering Starlink Mobile for RV Use With No Wait
Starlink offers Starlink Mobile service for nomadic customers with no wait and no assigned service address. This service is always deprioritized behind Residential customers on the Starlink Standard plan who are at their assigned service address.
To obtain Starlink Mobile service, you will visit Starlink.com/roam where you will be able to purchase service immediately with no wait.
Starlink Mobile service is aimed at the RVer or nomad that wishes to travel with their Starlink and have the option to pause the service during those times they may not need it saving them lots of money if they spend months not using it.
The Starlink Mobile FAQ defines both the Regional and Global service as a land based service that is geo-fenced. This is a big change from the former Starlink for RVs which previously didn't have this language and up to this point had not been geo-fenced to land use only.
Our Starlink Roam story covers how Roam replaced Starlink for RVs.
Ordering Starlink For Residential Customers
Starlink Standard Service availability for residential customers is based on the service address used at the time of ordering.
If you are intending to use Starlink Standard service in a variety of locations as you travel your only option is to move your service address as you travel, and rely on other sources for internet when you cannot update your service location or change to a Starlink Mobile plan.
The most expensive option is to purchase two services & equipment - Starlink Standard for your primary location and Starlink Mobile service that you pause when you don't need it.
Starlink has a Starlink Availability Map that shows exactly where you can order standard service with no waitlist. A service address in a light blue area is available for immediate full order while a service address in medium blue area means you'll be on a waitlist for the residential service. The darker blue areas show where Starlink service is coming soon.
To obtain Starlink Standard, you go to the Starlink.com website under Residential where you are prompted to enter in a physical street address or enter in a Google Plus code (Google's proprietary way of entering lat/long coordinates - you can look these up on Google Maps) and the system returns back one of three options for that address which should coincide with the starlink map above.
- Immediate Order Offered - After you enter your address, if you are offered the full $599 order option, this means that your service address in in an open cell with capacity and you are buying Starlink right then and there. Your Starlink system will ship to you in 1-3 weeks, and upon order confirmation you will become an actual Starlink customer with access to the Starlink store and tech support via your account.
- $99 Deposit Offered - If the cell is not available or if it's at capacity, the system will give an estimation of time on when you could expect service and will offer you to put down a $99 deposit to hold your place in line. Once your deposit is accepted, you will be able to order mounting accessories from the Starlink store.
- No Service Offered - It is rare, but there are some addresses where Starlink is not even accepting deposits - and where there is no estimate being given on when new orders will be accepted.
There is a massive backlog of residential orders for Starlink, with many addresses now showing fulfillment not likely until well into 2023 or later in the US.
Although you can order Starlink standard at any open service address, if you really do want Starlink to work at an address currently at capacity, your only option is Starlink Mobile service. Starlink Mobile service users (and those grandfathered with portability) are served best effort and can expect lower service levels than fixed users, particularly in areas marked as "Waitlist" on the Availability Map.
What does the Starlink deposit mean?
If you don't find a service address that allows you to place an order immediately, SpaceX will give you a chance to pay a $99 deposit to secure your place in line for when there is more availability in your service address area.
This deposit is fully refundable - but giving it up forfeits your place in the queue.
Starlink points out the deposit is not a guarantee that you will get service when estimated, and nor does it lock in any pricing. When you place a deposit you are put at the end of the line waiting for Starlink in the area around the service address you entered.
If you put down a deposit, when availability opens up for your location, Starlink will email you and and you have 7 days to confirm your purchase and your shipping address, or your order is automatically cancelled and your deposit is returned. At that point you have to start over at the end of the line again.
Ordering Starlink Best Effort Service
In Aug of 2022 SpaceX introduced Starlink Best Effort Service which is only being offered to customers currently with a deposit in a waitlisted area for Starlink Standard service. It is by an email invite only and generally seems to be offered to those waiting the longest.
Starlink Best Effort is very similar to Starlink Mobile in that it is always deprioritized service, but unlike the Starlink Mobile it is actually tied to your Starlink Standard account with a deposit and service address.
One of most important features of this service is Starlink will let you convert your existing Starlink Best Effort to Starlink Standard when your turn in line comes up without changing equipment. Once you convert to Starlink Standard, then you will have priority service at your service address.
Another great feature is you can pause Starlink Best Effort if it's not meeting your needs while being deprioritized, but you continue to hold your place in line until your standard service becomes available. This service is also only $120/month, the same cost as Starlink Standard in an at capacity area. One important caution is If you cancel Starlink Best Effort though, then you also forfeit your place in line for Starlink Standard since the accounts are tied together.
Starlink Store and Accessories
The standard Starlink system includes the outdoor "Dishy" receiver, a 50' cable, an indoor Wi-Fi router that also acts as a power supply, and the kit also included is a basic four-legged stand suitable for setting up the Dishy on level ground.
SpaceX also sells a range of Starlink accessories on the Starlink Store - including different types of mounting systems, replacement cables ($60 - $85, depending on length), and an Ethernet adapter ($25) that lets you connect the Starlink system to other wired networks.
This Starlink store is only accessible once you have placed a full order and have opened up an account with Starlink - but you can place orders for accessories in advance of your Dishy actually shipping.
Ongoing Cost of Service
Starlink charges for their service on a monthly basis and your billing date is reflective of the date your service started or restarted after an unpause on one of the mobile plans. There are no contracts and any plans can be cancelled at any time.
This monthly service charge includes unlimited data on most plans except for the highest tier priority plans, which have limited amount of priority data sold in various amounts of data.
- The Starlink Standard Service is $90 or $120 on a month to month basis with unlimited standard data.
- The Starlink Priority plans are $250/$500/$1500 per month for limited priority data with unlimited standard data after that or extra priority data costing $.50/GB.
- The Starlink Mobile plans are $150 or $200 per month for unlimited mobile data. Optional priority data is available at $2/GB.
- The Starlink Mobile Priority plans are $250/$1000/$5000 per month given a set amount of priority with unlimited mobile data while on land or additional priority data at $2/GB while on open water or if a user just desires more priority data.
- For those grandfathered with residential service with portability, the cost is an additional $25/mo on top of your basic residential charge. This will range from $115/mo to $145/mo depending on your plan when you were grandfathered in.
Part-time RVers and boaters often desire flexible connectivity options that can be turned on and off as needed. All Starlink mobile plans, mobile priority, and best effort plans offer the option to pause service when not in use and can be started up at any time.
While Starlink Standard and Priority can not officially be paused like other services, there are no contracts and you can cancel your service at any time. And there are currently no re-activation fees.
To re-activate it in the future, you can use the transfer service portal to start-up service with your existing hardware. Remember that using any service address to start service is currently a way things just work, not a stated policy or feature of Starlink - anything can change in the future. You may find when you want to re-activate it's not as easy, or they could eventually make it even easier.
An important note is that when your service is paused and your dish is stowed away, you are not getting software updates which are frequent from SpaceX.
It's a good practice to periodically set your Starlink up even with paused service to receive updates
Six Months seems to be a maximum time between updates with 3 months a better goal. Even when service is paused, you can put your dish out and it will still get updates.
Switching Service Plans
Starlink now allows a user to switch between various plans including Mobile to Standard which means customers can swap between plans as their needs dictate.
When going up in price on a plan, the change takes place immediately and the user is charged the remaining month prorated amount. When going down in price, the change happens at the next billing cycle and there is no prorating.
Transferring Service and Used Systems
SpaceX has opened up the ability to transfer your Starlink hardware to a new owner without needing CSR assistance through their self-service portal (Starlink Adds Self-Service Transfers)
Buying used is a pretty easy way to obtain service if you find a seller you can work with - so you'll have to judge if the used equipment and asking price are worth it to you.
With the self-service portal, buying a used dish has become a lot safer for the buyer as they now have a way to start their own service directly on the Starlink website without the buyers help as long as they have some information from the dish they are purchasing. For sellers, you will now cancel your service on the website before transferring to a buyer which is different from the way it originally was and service needed to be active to transfer.
We used to caution about purchasing used Starlink equipment without active service, but that has changed and you should be able to start service on any used dish that was purchased from the same country you are in.
Should You Order Starlink Priority?
In February 2022 (our news story) SpaceX began accepting orders for a new "Starlink Premium" offering featuring a new larger Dishy receiver now referred to as the HP Standard Dish. They soon after renamed the service to be Starlink Business and later Starlink Priority. Compare specs to the consumer version at our Starlink Gear Center.
"With more than double the antenna capability of Starlink, Starlink Business delivers faster internet speeds and higher throughput. Order now to reserve, deliveries start in Q2 2022."
Starlink Priority has 3 Tiers of service (1TB-$250/mo, 2TB-$500/mo, 6TB-$1500/mo) and comes standard with the HP dish at a cost of $2500 for the equipment.
All Starlink Priority plans have a limited amount of priority data and then automatically revert to standard data once that priority data is exhausted. You can purchase more data at $.50/GB and sign up for it automatically to be added.
Starlink Priority is the highest priority so even in congested markets should see higher speeds than Starlink Standard and definitely higher than deprioritized plans like Starlink Mobile.
SpaceX makes it clear that Starlink Priority is intended for "enabling high throughput connectivity for offices of up to 20 users, storefronts, and demanding workloads across the globe." - a tier of more demanding customers that are likely to be less tolerant of network congestion, glitches, and temporary slowdowns.
On paper, the performance of the Starlink Priority service are more than twice that of Starlink Standard and 4x-8x that of Starlink Mobile and other best effort plans.
With the different tier levels of service and unlimited standard data, Starlink Priority can be an affordable option for users with higher demands or less tolerance for interruptions in service.
In congested Starlink locations, the priority service should make a nice difference over lower priority users and when needing assistance your tickets have a higher priority to be answered more quickly.
Starlink Mobile Priority for Maritime & Mobility Customers
In July of 2022 almost immediately after the FCC approval for Starlink in Motion, Starlink released their Starlink Maritime service at a pretty astounding price not likely in the budget for most small boaters ($10,000 for hardware / $5,000/mo for service for 5TB of priority service).
Over the course of the next year Starlink reduced the original $5,000 cost of the flat HP dish for Maritime plans to be the same $2500 as other plans and Starlink added two more tiers of Maritime service with a $1000/mo for 1TB of priority service and a $250/mo for 50GB of priority service.
Starlink Mobile Priority is aimed at Maritime & Mobility customers and now has 3 tiers of service with defined limits of priority service on land/water and unlimited basic access when on land. All plans can purchase more priority access for $2/GB and this is the only option when on open water to stay connected.
- $5000/mo for 5TB of priority data
- $1000/mo for 1TB of priority data
- $250/mo for 50GB of priority data
While the Starlink Maritime service was originally extremely expensive and more aimed at the Mega Yachts, cruise ships, and commercial markets (Starlink Maritime Now Available for a Boat Load of $$$), their cheapest $250/mo plan is now reaching a point to make it feasible for some boaters and cruisers and for RVers that want some priority mobility access. - Starlink Introduces It's Most Affordable Maritime Data Plan.
Starlink Mobile Priority service can be paused just like the mobile service, so you are only paying for the service when you use it on a per-month basis and users have the option to move between the Starlink Mobile Priority 50GB while on water and the Starlink Mobile while on land helping adjust the price point they need depending on their needs.
Originally, Starlink Maritime used two High Performance Starlink Terminals with poles, the same hardware available for the Starlink Priority. Around Q4 2022, Starlink began offering its new flat mount HP dish to maritime customers as a free upgrade and it became the standard hardware going forward for all Starlink Mobile Priority plans.
Starlink has also added a lot of 3rd party resellers of Starlink Mobile Priority service and it seems they now offer a wide variety of service levels at different rates depending on what they negotiated with SpaceX. Many of these 3rd party resellers for the mobile priority service also require monthly subscription for support even when paused, so do your homework on what services tiers and additional fees they require.
Real world Starlink performance
The Starlink standard plan claims to have 25-100 mbps download and 5-10 mbps upload. (These speeds have dropped significantly from original claims that were much higher). The physical location of your service, Starlink network congestion, network priority, and local wifi congestion call all play a very large role in the speeds you will actually see.
Starlink mobile and users with deprioritized data will likely see even slower speeds during times of congestion. The performance chart above suggest deprioritized service can be as low as 5-50 mbps download and 2-10 mbps upload for the Starlink Mobile service. The lower end of that is much more common in congested areas and can feel pretty slow and the upper end doesn't even compete with good 5G cellular or even some really good LTE.
As time has went on with more users and more congestion, the initial impressive speeds have continued to drop. and most mobile users are now only seeing an adequate 20-50 mbps downloads, and the original speeds of 200+ seem to be a thing of the past. There are also plenty of reports of people experiencing slower than 5-10 mbps download speeds during busy times of the day and some down under 5 mbps which at times starts to make Starlink more frustrating in congested areas. Congestion in some areas is really becoming a problem for some users.
The upload seeds on the other hand have been pretty unimpressive for most users, especially when compared to good cellular connections. Even regularly getting 10 mbps seems like a challenge sometimes and getting any where above 15 mbps only happens at off peak times in the middle of the night. Certainly some users are seeing faster, but the uploads have been a bit disappointing thus far for a large majority of users and they continue to drop at times.
Speeds overall have definitely been affected by a very quickly growing user base and hopefully Starlink can improve this as they grow the constellation size and make improvements to their system.
RV, Boat and Nomadic Starlink Usage
Starlink is very simple to use and setup. It actually even comes delivered with the components plugged in to each other and ready to go.
All you need to do is place the Dishy outside in a wide open spot with a clear view of the northern sky, set the router somewhere convenient inside, and then plug in the power cord.
The system then does everything else automatically - including aiming and finding a signal.
The Dishy's with motors will first point straight up to track the satellites, and then once it has a good signal, you should notice it aim and tilt slightly to the north in most locations in the US although it's becoming more common to see a dish point NE or NW depending on your location.
Once this initial aiming happens, the Starlink Dishy remains stationary. The Starlink Dishy only needs this rough initial aiming towards the north, the precise tracking of the satellites in motion is handled entirely electronically by the advanced phased array antenna without any additional motion and why the flat HP dishes don't even need to be aimed to the north.
At this point you should have service and you can verify by connecting to the Starlink Wi-Fi network and using the Starlink app.
Your home screen will show a picture of your dish with a message indicating it is online, or if not - an explanatory error message.
Starlink Best Effort Service
Starlink Mobile service (regional & global), Starlink Standard with Portability (if grandfathered in) and Starlink Mobile Priority plans are what makes Starlink feasible for RV and boat travels. Being able to travel anywhere you have a clear open sky and Starlink has coverage, you can get online with the fuss of finding open cells to officially move your service to.
However, there are some considerations for this to keep in mind, particularly around their best effort terms. Starlink Mobile service, those using portability, and Starlink Mobile Priority plans on land after the priority data is exhausted are all subject to best effort.
Here are the official terms from Starlink's site, applicable for those who have Starlink Mobile and those still have Portability. Starlink terms of service
According to the Starlink terms of service, customers away on deprioritized service such as Starlink Mobile service will get "best effort" service and that they "may see slower speeds during times of network congestion."
In other words - Starlink customers roaming into an area will have a lower priority on the network than customers who are at "home" or have priority service, and if the network is congested the roamers will be the first to experience the slowdowns.
It has been observed that popular areas with RVers (like Quartzsite in winter) and places with significant congestion will definitely effect all users and especially deprioritized users during busy times, at least until the next generation Starlink constellation comes online in the years ahead.
This also means that nomads visiting areas already at capacity may find service to not be overly usable.
Starlink Mobile Priority Plans with limited priority access
With the new Mobile Priority plans, Starlink has offered a new way for roaming users to get access to priority data. These plans have a set amount of priority data that can be used with the 50GB one as the most common. This means during that first 50 GB of data of your billing cycle, you have priority data, even higher priority than residential users on standard. However, once that priority data is exhausted, you will have to purchase more priority data if on water to stay connected. If on land you can purchase more priority data if you desire, or just have mobile data access on land for the remainder of the billing cycle.
Starlink Standard Service Address Change
- Service Address Change - Starlink has always supported allowing customers to update their service address to match their current location, providing there is open capacity. When you are wanting to move, change your service address again if there is open capacity. There is no extra charge for using Starlink when you are located within range of your registered service address. The fee for residential ranges from $90/mo to $120/mo depending on congestion. It's cheaper in less congested areas.
- The advantage: When you are at your registered service address, you are getting standard service which is higher than mobile service.
- The downside: Officially changing your service address may not be possible if you are in an area without open capacity.
- Service Portability -
- Portability was discontinued in April 2023 for all customers worldwide unless portability was enabled at the time of the service change. Portability goes away for those customers once they change service plans or cancel service.
- When Service Portability is enabled on an account, service can be moved to covered locations anywhere on your home continent without updating your service address on a temporary basis.
- The advantage: This is a no fuss way to travel with Starlink without worrying about where there is open capacity to move your service address to.
- The downside: When away from your service address, your service is at best effort - which means you may experience slower speeds or downtime when in cells that are at capacity or experiencing congestion.
Starlink Standard for Residential - How to Change Your Service Address
Connecting at your assigned service address is the only place you have standard service.
You can do this under your account page, Starlink gives you a map that you can move around and find your current location. You can also enter in an address or Google+ code.
The map allows both normal view and satellite view.
When the map is over a specific location you choose and you are zoomed in close enough, you'll see the button "update address" is highlighted in white and can be clicked. It becomes greyed out if you zoom out too far.
- When you select the "update address" button, your service address will update immediately if it is open and has capacity. If you're not at that new address, your service will immediately be disconnected until you are near the new address unless you have Service Portability enabled.
- If Starlink doesn't accept the change, you will be shown a message that says service is not available in your area or that the cell is at capacity and please try again at a later time. Your service address is not updated and you will only be able to get service at the new location if you have Service Portability enabled. You can keep trying to change your service address however, as others may drop out of the area opening up capacity. And you may be able to find open capacity nearby by trying other addresses that might be in the same cell.
Keep in mind if you rely primarily on your Starlink at a fixed location, if you change your service address, someone else can now come in and take your previous spot. You may not be able to move your service back to it for a while.
Finding Open Cells for Service Address
Finding an open cell to move your Starlink service too is easy using the Starlink Availability Map that was added. Keep in mind just because the map says an area is not available for immediate order, it doesn't mean you can't move your service there. This part is still trial and error.
Where Does Starlink Work?
Starlink is a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation more ambitious than any that has ever been constructed before.
The advantage of having satellites at lower orbits is that they are physically close enough to users on the ground to provide fast low-latency communications rivaling 4G - and even 5G - cellular.
But the disadvantage of a lower orbit satellite system is that the satellites are always in motion in the sky - and it takes many satellites in coordinated orbits (known as a "shell") to guarantee that at least one satellite is always passing overhead at any given time.
In May 2021 SpaceX completed launching the last of the 1,584 satellites in its first complete shell.
This first shell allowed SpaceX to technically claim global coverage from 57° north to 57° south latitude, leaving out Alaska and other polar areas for the time being.
But the first generation version 1.0 satellites used to build this shell are completely dependent on ground stations for communications, and they can not relay data between satellites.
Because of this dependency - SpaceX had originally only enabled Starlink service in areas that it has enough satellite capacity and ground station coverage to provide service.
Global Coverage via “Space Lasers”
All Starlink satellites beyond the first shell of 1,584 are being equipped with laser interconnects so that the satellites can relay data from one satellite to the next until a ground station is in range.
With the addition of laser-equipped satellites becoming more prevalent in later versions of the Starlink satellites, especially in the polar regions, SpaceX now has the capability to offer truly global coverage regardless of ground stations - even far from shore, or in more countries internationally.
All of Alaska and northern Canada are now being serviced by satellites with space lasers.
But even with truly global coverage, that still doesn't mean that everyone who wants to sign up for Starlink will be able to.
The next problem is capacity - and that is going to take a lot longer to solve as additional shells are added to increase the amount of capacity in the system.
International Coverage and Roaming
Starlink also needs a license to operate in each and every country that it wants to cover.
Starlink is currently offered in over two dozen countries (including the United States, Canada, and Mexico). International travel roaming is now officially supported at two different tiers of service. Starlink Mobile Regional allows you to roam outside your home country, but only in the same continent as the registered service address. Starlink Mobile Global allows you to roam to any country on any continent. On both services, you are also limited to 2 month duration of roaming in the same country for tax reasons or you may be asked your service there to that country.
If you don't spend more than 2 billing periods in any given country, then there are no issues.
Being able to move your service address to another country though currently conflicts with other information that says you can't move your service address across international borders.
The official word from SpaceX is that:
"International Travel: If you use Mobile Services for more than two months in a country that is different than your shipping address, Starlink may require you to move your registered address to your new location.
While international roaming is officially supported, the TOS has yet to be totally enforced so it's still not quite clear how the mobile services will work for boaters and cruisers that frequent countries other than the one where they purchased Starlink.
SpaceX is now allowing connectivity to boaters crossing open oceans with the Starlink Mobile Priority plans, which is revolutionary compared to the expensive and slow legacy satellite options that cruisers have had to rely on in the past.
As of 2023, Starlink officially announced complete global coverage - Starlink Officially Becomes Global story
Starlink RV Challenges & Limitations
Though SpaceX has accomplished some undeniably amazing things, Starlink is still in its extremely early days with many challenges to overcome particularly for RV and boat use.
Here are a few that anyone considering investing in Starlink for RV use should be aware of.
Starlink Hates Trees
While a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation has some amazing benefits like much shorter ping times compared to the traditional geo-stationary satellites, those low altitude Starlink satellites are constantly moving overhead from horizon to horizon, and the Starlink Dishy needs to track them continuously to stay connected.
This means that Starlink needs a pretty much fully uninterrupted view of the northern sky to deliver great service and consistent reliable access, especially this early in the constellation's development where you may even still have brief moments of no satellite coverage at all.
If you are trying to use Dishy anywhere where the sky is obstructed - by trees, or even neighboring boat masts, Starlink will struggle.
Particularly for real-time tasks like video conferencing, Starlink can quickly become absolutely unusable if there are obstructions causing dropouts.
Online gaming, video conferencing, VPN sessions, and remote desktop usage are not very forgiving of brief dropouts, and many people have turned to bonding cellular and satellite connections together to mask any glitches if they are worried about making Starlink more reliable.
As more satellites get launched and the total number of satellites in the Starlink constellation grows, it will be less important to be able to see satellites lower on the horizon, but there's a long way to go to get to that point.
For the foreseeable future, you should plan on having a large clear view of the sky to obtain reliable internet service from Starlink.
While a canopy of trees over you might be your favorite place to camp, it's going to be a really bad place to setup your Starlink.
Starlink Is Power Hungry
Starlink currently only runs off 120V AC power.
If you want to use Starlink off-grid, you need to be able to support running an inverter 24/7 to power Starlink if you want internet 24/7. You of course can power it off at night to save power, but if that's your only internet option, you will unreachable during that time.
The very first version of the round Starlink Dishy (with a black leg) was an absolute power hog, burning a consistent 100 watts, or 2.4 kWh/day.
Software updates over time have decreased the power demands down to 60 - 70 Watts - but that's still a substantial load for an off grid system.
The 2nd version of the round Dishy (with a grey leg) was more power efficient, and on the latest software seems to consume 40-60 Watts. The rectangular Dishy is even more efficient - getting the demand down to 35-40 Watts. This brings the overall power needed for Starlink to under 1 kWh/day - a big improvement over the early version, but still massively more power than cellular connectivity would require.
The High Performance dish, both the flat and the pole mount claim 110w-150w. This puts us right back where we started and not very friendly to off-grid users.
TIP: The Starlink app have given the user the ability to turn off the automatic snow melt feature, which helps keep your Dishy power consumption more conservative - especially when operating in colder climates. There is also a sleep feature, but turning power off completely is the best power saving.
Starlink isn’t always a great fit
Starlink has some practicability issues that keep it from being the only mobile internet solution you need. Currently only the flat high performance model is approved for in-motion use, but this model is expensive and uses a lot of power. The other models are still prohibited in motion use and can be a means for termination of your account.
If you are just stopping for a quick break, it's not very feasible to setup the standard Starlink and deploy it in order to be connected to the internet. It can be a hassle to unpack, setup, and then wait for it to get service. You also have to then pack it up to travel again. Thankfully the new flat mount high performance dish is making this a non issue.
If you are leaving your RV or boat for a day excursion or trip into town, it's not practical to take Starlink with you. It just can't compete with the flexibility a stand alone hot spot you can fire up and carry in your pocket for easy internet access.
Starlink & The Weather
Starlink is satellite based so it is still subject to possible weather interruptions. Many reports seem to suggest it is more resilient than other geo-stationary based satellite services in typical weather, but in some cases people can still expect outages during bad storms and heavy precipitation. Heavy rain seems to be the leading culprit for interruptions.
Starlink does incorporate a snow melt feature that can be set in the app to one of 3 options (Off, Auto, & Pre-Heat). There isn't actually a heater built into Dishy, but rather a byproduct of the phased antenna array that can use more power to generate more heat.
Most off-grid RVers and Cruisers will probably opt to keep this heat setting off in order to minimize energy usage. The Auto function works best for most stationary users or users plugged in and we have seen good reports of the Pre-Heat function before an impending snow storm.
There is one unwanted side effect from the heat function and that is it can attract cats to cuddle up on the Dishy totally negating the whole purpose of keeping the face of the starlink dish clear.
Keep your Starlink Upright in the Wind
The wind can also play some havoc on your Dishy. The factory base that comes with all versions of the Dishy seems to be sufficient to keep Dishy upright when placed on the ground for wind speeds up to 25mph. Some people have even gone as far to stake their feet down into the ground to make sure it doesn't blow over if a surprise gust comes up.
The risk of your Starlink blowing over goes up if you place your dish on top of your RV or Boat on the stock base without securing it down. You will probably want to look at a more secure mounting method such as a pole adapter attached to your ladder or one of the roof mount adapters permanently attached if you regularly want to have the dish above the roof line of your RV or boat.
There is a risk that if your Starlink blows over, it can cause damage to the front face of the dish (much more common on the rectangle version), or it can twist around wrapping the cord around it trying to locate satellites. You can cause damage to your cord or internal motors if this happens and you don't notice it, so it's best to do everything to keep your dish upright.
Protecting Your Starlink Ethernet Cable
The proprietary starlink cable that comes with the current hardware is sensitive to water intrusion, especially if connected/disconnected under power. There have been reports of friend cables from people that have gotten them wet and then plugged them in or plugged/unplugged the cable while the starlink dish is powered up.
This cable is carrying 48v+ on it and your Starlink should be powered off any time this cable is attached or removed in order to prevent damage to the cable or the equipment. This includes plugging in the optional ethernet adapter for the rectangle Dishy.
If you disconnect your cable and it must remain outdoors, it's best to find a way to keep it completely dry and absolutely make sure it's dry before plugging it in, or you might find yourself with a fried cable. A USB-C cap can be used to place on the end of the cable to keep it dry and clean.
The proprietary cable ends are also proving to be quite fragile so if it's not connected to the device, take extra caution with it. These cable ends should be treated with the upmost care when connecting, disconnecting, and transporting your Starlink equipment.
Adding an RJ45 connector
Some customers are adding their own RJ45 Connectors to their rectangle dishy's with proprietary connectors. This allows them to install a waterproof connector in a storage bay or up on the roof and then connect to what ever connection they need.
Capacity & Congestion Is Always a Concern
Starlink is not magically immune from the same sort of congestion that often overwhelms cellular networks. In fact - Starlink has some unique traits that might make congestion even more of a concern.
Just like cellular, if you find yourself surrounded by a lot of other Starlink users, everyone's service will probably suffer as the satellite struggles to handle the demands on it.
Especially if you are connected at a lower priority - Starlink may prove to be frustrating. And it may not be possible to move your service address officially to an area that is already at capacity.
Elon Musk himself has pointed out many times that Starlink will always be at a disadvantage in urban and other high-density areas - since it will always be more practical to have multiple cell towers covering dense areas than just a handful of satellites passing in range overhead trying to serve all those same customers.
He even said that in high-density areas, Starlink will need to limit the number of customers that it allows to sign up.
How these unavoidable constraints on capacity will impact nomads who wish to roam between remote and urban areas remains to be seen. But we anticipate that nomads will find Starlink a great option when in less populated areas, but not as ideal when traveling in congested areas where cellular and Wi-Fi solutions will make better sense.
Bankruptcy Is a Risk
Elon Musk has frequently mentioned that his ultimate goal with Starlink is to generate enough income to fund his Mars colonization ambitions (really!) - but until the Starlink system is more mature it will be a massive money loser that even Elon acknowledges faces "a genuine risk of bankruptcy".
In particular - SpaceX is bettings its future on the massive reusable Starship architecture that will eventually be able to launch hundreds of Starlink satellites per day. Some analysts suspect that it would take 7-10 years to fully deploy the Starlink V2 constellation using the current small Falcon 9 rocket if SpaceX is unable to transition to Starship, making Starlink economically not a viable business in the long run.
On the other hand - if Starship does come online as planned, it will completely transform the economics of building massive constellations in orbit.
Practical Tips & Tricks for RV Starlink
Here are a few practical tips for making the most of a Starlink system.
Use the Built in Obstruction Finder in the App
Before you even own Starlink, you can download the Starlink app for iOS or Android and check an area to see how well it might work for you in a given area.
- With the app downloaded, open it up and click on visibility.
- You will see a "check for obstructions" with a camera icon
- Follow the on-screen instructions
- Remember to hold your phone at about knee height if the dish will be sitting on the ground.
Once you complete the process, the app will present you with a field of view in blue with obstructions in red. It will also give you a report that you can click on. Overall this would not be a good spot for Starlink and would have frequent interruptions and outages.
Starlink Speed Testing
The Starlink Speed Test has 2 screens. The main screen looks similar to other speed tests app and gives your device to internet speed.
The Advanced Speed test breaks it down a bit further and gives the Starlink to Internet speed taking your device out of the picture and then your Wi-Fi Speed which is your device to the router.
This page can help you see if you have a bottleneck between your device and the router.
TIP: A lot of people see the impressive "Wi-Fi speeds", and mistakenly think the is the speed they are getting via Starlink. The Starlink Speed is your actual speed and what you should see is that your Wi-Fi speed is higher and not the bottleneck in your connection.
Combining Starlink With Other Internet Sources
For casual surfing or streaming, Starlink usually feels rock solid in normal usage. A little bit of background buffering smoothes over any rough patches.
But for real-time tasks like video conferencing, Starlink has enough tiny drops that it might not be reliable enough for some critical activities.
Those drops can occurs from heavy rain, any momentary obstruction, trees or surrounding terrain.
If you are just attending a video meeting - no one will likely notice if you drop out for 3 seconds every so often. But if you are the host or are working with clients - bonding Starlink with another internet source will make for a much more reliable overall experience.
For all these reasons - we strongly recommend those who need reliability seek out ways to combine Starlink with other ways online.
For the basic on how to do this, start with our guide here:
Combining Internet Connections: Bonding, Load Balancing & Auto Failover
One very attractive setup would be using a multi-wan router with dual cellular modems (link to our Gear Center with options available) that can support 2 cellular carriers simultaneously, and then using Starlink as another WAN source to then bond all three networks together.
You have the option with the appropriate router as bringing Starlink service into your own router using the optional ethernet adapter and standard ethernet cable to hardwire it to a wan port on your router or setting it up as Wifi-as-Wan connection.
Depending on the router, you can have Starlink as a primary source or failover source of internet or setup a bonding setup that combines several sources of internet together into one.
Using a setup like this, you can have 2 or more different sources of internet that are all working together to keep you connected!
Storing Starlink for RV Travel
A Starlink system can be bulky and cumbersome to store, a particular consideration in a smaller RV or on a boat with limited storage space.
But the second generation rectangular Dishy is a LOT more practical to fit into a small space.
TIP: The rectangular Dishy's from surface is made of soft vinyl, and it is easy to scratch it and cause cosmetic damage. Keeping it wrapped in something soft can help prevent this. The older round Dishy was much harder to damage.
Starlink RV & Boat Mounting Considerations
The standard Starlink Dishy system is not designed to be mounted permanently on a vehicle that is moving at highway speed. The flat high performance dish with no motors is designed to be mounted permanently and approved for in-motion use.
But it is easy to do temporary mounts that attach the Dishy to a pole, or a ladder.
Do keep in mind though that physically mounting Starlink to your RV will limit where you can park, especially in the shade. Using the ground mount stand and the extended cable option will let you locate the Starlink receiver up to 150' away from where you are parked.
A note for boaters with marine radar: you will want to place your Dishy to be out of your radar's field of view. The marine radar will shut your Starlink down, and it requires a full reboot to recover.
Using Starlink In-Motion
The Starlink constellation was designed from the start to enable in motion usage and is now supported for approved devices. Currently only the flat mount high performance dish is approved for in-motion use. All other versions are not approved.
SpaceX updated their TOS to officially prohibit in-motion use on unapproved equipment and even threatens account termination.
IN-MOTION USE PROHIBITED FOR UNDESIGNATED KITS, COUNTRIES AND USES. YOU ARE PROHIBITED FROM INSTALLING OR USING A KIT ON A MOVING VEHICLE OR VESSEL UNLESS STARLINK HAS DESIGNATED YOUR SPECIFIC KIT MODEL AND/OR MOUNT FOR IN-MOTION USE AND HAS OBTAINED ALL REQUIRED IN-MOTION APPROVALS IN THE COUNTRY OF USE. NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING, USE OR INSTALLATION OF A KIT ON AN AIRCRAFT OF ANY KIND IS PROHIBITED IN ALL CASES. SERVICES IN-MOTION ON AN AIRCRAFT, VEHICLE OR VESSEL (e.g., CARS, VANS, RVs, BOATS) VIA AN UNAUTHORIZED KIT OR COUNTRY IS PROHIBITED, WILL VOID THE LIMITED WARRANTY OF YOUR KIT, AND MAY BE GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION OF YOUR AGREEMENT WITH STARLINK PER SECTION 6.6 OF THESE TERMS. Visit https://www.starlink.com/specifications for a description of the Starlink Kit models designated for in-motion use.
Starlink in-motion became a reality in Oct 2022 for the approved flat mount dishy.
It is important to keep in mind that the standard consumer Starlink hardware for Starlink Standard or Starlink Mobile was NOT designed for this sort of usage and now it is officially prohibited from In-Motion use.
Starlink Customer Service
For early adopters, Starlink customer service started off pretty promising with tickets often getting answers in hours. Since the beginning of 2022 once customer numbers expanded rapidly, Starlink customer service has become extremely backlogged with requests sometimes going unanswered for weeks.
How Do You Contact Customer Service?
The only way to contact customer service is through your account page under the support tab. There are a lot of support topics organized by various categories and an FAQ you can search through and if your question isn't answered there, you can thumb down a response and then open a ticket.
Starlink has acknowledged the backlog and now most questions get an automated response with some very common problems and telling them that a customer service rep will answer their question soon. However reports are that most real customer service responses come at least a week or more and sometimes into multiple weeks.
It is possible to request a call back and sometimes for more complicated issues, Starlink does reach out to the customer directly by phone, but most responses are through their customer portal by messaging.
Customers who open multiple tickets just find that their later tickets get closed automatically and a response that they already have a ticket opened so this doesn't help you get a response any sooner.
No Support for Non Customers or $99 Deposit Holders
Since customer support is only available to current Starlink customers, this also means that customers with a $99 deposit do not have access to support.
Deposit holders often complain about getting no communication from Starlink, but the best source of information is going to your account page and checking the estimation for when they expect to service your area.
Replacing Faulty Equipment
Even with the dismal customer service reports, the good thing is that SpaceX has been very good about replacing faulty equipment and giving credits to customers for lost service time.
So while it could be painful waiting for a customer service to reply to your ticket, they usually are very responsive once they contact you and are good about making things right.
Starlink for RV Use Concluding Thoughts
Is Starlink one of the internet solutions you have been waiting for to keep connected in your RV or boat? It certainly has an amazing promise to be a paramount shift in staying connected anywhere in the world. The possibilities it opens up for off grid RVers and open water cruisers to be able to stay connected to the rest of the world is nothing short of amazing!
There are certainly a fair number of challenges for Starlink to attempt to overcome though.
How well will Starlink compete with the fast developing 5G cellular networks? Especially in areas where cell towers are practical, 5G has the potential to deliver speeds that can beat or exceed what Starlink can offer - especially when it comes to upload performance.
Starlink on the other hand has the advantage of working in places cellular could never be feasible, but it is still early days in the expansion of the Starlink constellation and it will be a while before Starlink is able to even begin to deliver on its full promise.
Starlink also just lacks the flexibility of "just working" to get you connected as easily as picking up your cell phone or turning on a mobile hotspot can.
Starlink is not destined to be the one ultimate way for nomads to get online - but it is seemingly on track to become a great component of many technomadic connectivity arsenals.
Starlink Reality Check
Despite the seeming universal excitement for Starlink - Elon Musk has been clear from the beginning that Starlink is NOT for everyone.
He was the keynote speaker at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona in 2021, and he reiterated his target:
"You can think of Starlink as filling in the gaps between 5G and fiber and really getting to the parts of the world that are the hardest to reach - the most difficult to reach 3%, perhaps 5%."
He repeated over and over that Starlink was designed to be complementary to fiber and 5G, not a replacement for either.
And this advice should be taken to heart by nomads looking to embrace Starlink - Starlink should be thought of as a great potential complement to cellular (and occasionally, public Wi-Fi). Especially for those who like variety in their travels that is not constrained only to low populated wide open areas.
For most RVers, boaters and nomads - a reliable mobile internet solution will continue to consist of multiple options. And each will have to weigh how or if Starlink fits for them.
Other Nomadic Starlink Resources
Here are some other Starlink resources worth keeping an eye on:
- Starlink for RVers Facebook Group - Online forum for discussing all things related to Starlink and RVs.
- Starlink on Boats Facebook Group - Online forum focused on marine aspects of Starlink.
- Starlink for Overlanders Facebook Group - Lower traffic Facebook group dedicated to using Starlink on international overland expeditions, hosted by Marcus Tuck.
- Tucks' Truck - Starlink for Overlanders Page - Marcus Tuck has done more tinkering with Starlink in more physical locations than anyone, and he has documented his experiences here.
- Starlink Reddit - The largest online community dedicated to discussing Starlink. Not mobile focused at all - but occasionally interesting.
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