You may have seen our post on our RV internet solutions for 2021 which we created to update our readers on the most recent upgrades we made to our tech cabinet. But it’s 2022 now, and while our internet solutions are working very well for us, like many RVers we’re keeping an eye on the developments associated with Starlink RV Internet.
Starlink could prove to be an interesting option for RVers, especially those who live and work full time from their rigs as we do. But despite the many intriguing aspects of Starlink, there are some drawbacks at present.
With Starlink currently beta testing in the U.S. and Canada, let’s take a look at Starlink RV Internet – what it is, how it works, and the pros and cons based on the most recent information.
- 1) What Is Starlink RV Internet?
- 2) How Does Starlink RV Internet Work?
- 3) What Are the Benefits of Starlink RV Internet?
- 4) What Are the Drawbacks of Starlink RV Internet?
- 5) Is Starlink the Internet Solution You’ve Been Waiting For?
Starlink RV Internet is a low earth orbit satellite-based internet. The idea behind Starlink Internet was to create an entire constellation of thousands of small satellites in a low earth orbit to deliver high-speed internet across the globe, including low-cost internet to remote areas.
Conceptualized by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies, Corp.), the goal was to ultimately have 30,000 – 42,000 satellites in the Starlink mega constellation.
Supporters have called the project the greatest innovation of the century, while critics have referred to it as a menace at best. Astronomers fear that the brightly lit satellites will interfere with critical observations of the universe, and flight safety experts see Starlink (the name of the satellite network) as the greatest collision hazard in Earth’s orbit. Scientists have also expressed concerns that the amount of metal that will burn up in the atmosphere from old satellites could cause unforeseeable changes to our climate.
Satellite internet isn’t a new concept. In fact, many RVers (ourselves included) have used satellite internet at some point. But to date, satellite internet has been notoriously slow and expensive, and not the best solution for most RVers.
Starlink Internet is very different from the traditional satellite internet many of us have used, though. So, let’s take a look at how it works.
The most recent version of each Starlink satellite weighs 573 pounds (260 kilograms). A single satellite has been described as being the size of a table – (a HEAVY table!)
Ultimately, the vision of SpaceX is to deploy thousands of satellites in three orbital shells for worldwide coverage. Perfect for RVers, or so you’d think. Well – not so fast. (Not yet anyway.) But we digress. Back to how it works…
Instead of sending internet signals through cables that need to be physically laid in various places, satellite internet beams information through space, and the information travels 47% faster than it would through a fiber-optic cable.
The satellite internet that we’ve accessed in the past (and perhaps you have as well) worked using large satellites that orbit over 22,000 miles above a particular spot on the planet. But due to the distance, time delays are experienced while sending and receiving data.
By contrast, Starlink’s satellites, which are situated in much lower orbits closer to the Earth’s surface, can carry information very rapidly to any point on the planet, including over oceans and in highly remote areas where the laying of fiber-optic cables would be cost-prohibitive.
As of January 2022, SpaceX had 1,900 Starlink satellites in orbit, providing broadband service in select areas as part of the beta testing program. Reports show download speeds of between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps, and latency (the delay between when a signal is sent and when it’s received) as low as 20 milliseconds.
More recently, Starlink launched a crazy-fast Premium tier 500 Mbps satellite internet plan – but you’ll pay a hefty $500/month for it. Not only that, but the Premium tier package will also require a premium kit that includes an antenna, WiFi router, cables, and a base, all with an upfront cost of an additional $2,500.
On the ground, users would access the broadband signals using a kit sold by SpaceX. In other words, you won’t be able to just point your phone at the stars and grab a connection. Patrons of the service will require a receiver disk (described as being roughly the size of a pizza box) and a mounting tripod. A WiFi router, cables, and a power supply will also be required.
By the way, Starlink satellite dishes are different from other dish antennae that need to be very precisely aimed. A Starlink receiver would simply need to be aimed at the sky. And that’s a pretty big target!
Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of Starlink RV internet.
As many of us wait with bated breath for the availability of Starlink internet to RVers, we’re interested in some very promising features that would surely prove beneficial.
Foremost is the ability to connect to the internet from anywhere. As avid boondockers who’ve been known to boondock for weeks at a time in some pretty remote locations, this is an especially intriguing benefit from our perspective. In fact, it was our favorite feature of our old Hughes Satellite Internet dish (which was FAR slower than Starlink with much higher latency due to higher-altitude satellites). Cellular has improved dramatically over the years, but there are still many places where the signal is weak to non-existent (and that’s usually wherever WE want to be, LOL!).
Single Plan for Home and On the Road
You could have a single plan that you use both at home and on the road. You’d buy one access kit from SpaceX and mount your dish at home. Then, when you’re ready to hit the road, you’d simply move it to your RV and continue to access the internet as you travel. That could provide some significant cost savings to having to have two plans, one for home and one for the road.
Truly Unlimited Usage
Finally, a truly unlimited plan! Starlink internet doesn’t currently count your data (or throttle it!) – you’re simply always connected and able to download, upload, and work as necessary without limitations.
Completely Separate from Your Cellular Plan
Your Starlink internet package would be completely separate from your cellular plan. So, this means that not only would you not be using up your cell data, you wouldn’t even need to increase data allotment on your cell plan when you travel.
Moreover, you could use your phone’s plan as a backup should you need it, (for example, when you’re parked under trees in a forest).
For a primer on RV internet options see our post on mobile connectivity explaining the difference between cellular and WiFi.
Currently, there are several issues preventing Starlink RV Internet from being an RVer’s dream. Let’s take a look at what those are:
Our latest information shows Starlink pre-orders costing US$110 a month, with an upfront hardware fee of US$599 + shipping/handling of US$50. For better speeds, reports suggested that you’ll want to upgrade to a better WiFi router which would mean additional cash.
So, if you only camp on weekends and/or for a couple of weeks in the summer, Starlink’s internet access will probably not prove to be the most reasonable option for you. Not only would it be an added expense, but your cell coverage may also serve your purposes just fine.
For those of us who live and work full time in our RVs, Starlink may be more worth the cost IF it can truly provide constant reliable coverage just about anywhere.
This takes us to another drawback…
Not Yet Mobile Compatible
For RVers, Starlink isn’t quite ready for prime time. While users who are beta testing Starlink are reporting satisfaction, they’re typically using Starlink from a singular static location. Recently, Starlink turned on “roaming”, which means that you are no longer confined to using your Starlink dish & receiver within a limited range of your home address. Instead, you can use the app/website to update your “home” location to a new spot. Of course, Service isn’t available everywhere yet, so you may encounter a location you can’t receive signal.
But, RVers would really benefit from Starlink being in-motion compatible (and ideally usable while the RV is in motion), and at the moment, it isn’t. That said, SpaceX has apparently filed a request with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to bring Starlink internet to ships and jets (so, vessels that move, like RVs do).
David Goldman, SpaceX’s Director of Satellite Policy, wrote in the letter: “This application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide.”
The letter reportedly cited the need for quality internet “while on the move”, and noted that vehicle installation would be handled by qualified installers.
So…promising, but not currently available. In fact, it’s really only conceptual at this point because Musk himself tweeted that due to the size of the Starlink satellite terminal, Starlink internet is not yet possible on cars (but, luckily, RVs tend to be larger than that).
Requires a View of the Sky
When it does become available for RVers, Starlink internet will (of course) require a view of the sky to work. So again, parking under large trees (like if you want to help keep your RV cool in the summer) would render your Starlink internet insufficient at best.
Satellite Constellation is Currently Incomplete
Because the Starlink internet satellite constellation is not yet complete, there are some “blips” in coverage when enough satellites aren’t in view. This will eventually be resolved but is currently considered a drawback for Starlink RV internet hopefuls. Especially if you HAVE to have a reliable, always-on connection for whatever it is you’re doing over the internet.
Latency, (the delay between when your computer sends a request and when it arrives at its destination and vice versa), is currently greater with Starlink than it is with cellular (which, of course, is transmitting signals over much shorter distances), so for truly time-sensitive applications, it may not be ideal.
So, tell us – have you been waiting with bated breath for the availability of Starlink internet? Are you one of many who’ve put down a deposit for regular service at home (when it becomes available) or for the premium Starlink service at your business, perhaps?
Let us know in the comments section below!
For us, so far, the best option for RV connectivity is our current setup:
But, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our eye on the skies for possible future upgrades! 😉
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