4 Things RVers Need To Know About Starlink Internet
If you have been within throwing distance of the tech news world for the last year or two, you will have no doubt heard about Starlink Internet. If you haven’t heard of it, Starlink is a constellation of thousands of small satellites in low earth orbit. The goal is to provide internet service anywhere in the world via satellite.
The idea of having fast, reliable internet anywhere and not having to rely on cell coverage or data caps is a life goal for many RVers. RVers frequently ask about getting reliable internet on platforms like Facebook and forums like IRV2. Starlink is already beta testing in some areas of the United States and Canada, which has many RVers chomping at the bit to get some answers about taking the service on the road.
Recently, the Starlink team did an “Ask Us Anything” session on Reddit. The Starlink engineers answered many of the hundreds of questions posed to them. Elon Musk even chimed in from time to time. We sifted through the thread and pulled out four things we learned from the Starlink engineers that RVers might want to know.
1. Starlink is not quite ready to be taken RVing just yet.
Before you start making room in your compartments to accommodate the hardware, Starlink is not quite ready for the RV life. At this time, you have to register it at a specific address, and it and only be accessed there. They mention that it may be possible to use it in locations nearby, but the performance may suffer.
Don’t let this kill your Starlink dreams, though.
The team said, “Mobility options – including moving your Starlink to different service addresses (or places that don’t even have addresses!) – is coming once we can increase our coverage by launching more satellites & rolling out new software.”
2. You may have to deal with clearance issues for a while.
If you already have satellite TV, you know that trees and obstructions are not your friends. The same holds with Starlink. At the moment, the satellite coverage is relatively limited. That means your view of the sky has to be completely clear from branches, trees, and other obstructions.
Anyone who has traveled with a satellite knows that is not always possible. That might sound like a no-go for many RVers. But the Starlink team has some positive things to say about the problem and the future of the product.
“You should think about communication between the Starlink dish and the satellite in space as a ‘skinny beam’ between dishy and the satellite. So, as the satellite passes quickly overhead, if there is a branch or pole between the dish and satellite, you’ll usually lose connection. We’re working on some software features that are going to make this much better and long term, the clearance you’ll need is going to shrink as the constellation grows. So this will get much better!”
3. The dish is a bit of a power hog, but they are working on it.
Right now, the Starlink dish that you need to connect to the network uses about 100 watts while running. That’s not too bad, but it isn’t excellent news for boondockers. If you need internet 10 hours a day and are trying to run off solar, that’s a good chunk of power just to run your internet. Of course, power consumption will vary depending on your needs.
Starlink engineers said, “We have a couple of items in progress to further reduce power consumption. We are working on software and network updates to allow your Starlink to go into a deeper power savings mode to drop power consumption while still remaining connected to the network. Power reductions are a key item we are focusing on for the future.” That’s good news for boondockers, but we are going to have to wait for those upgrades to become a reality.
4. Their system is very scalable, so bandwidth should not be an issue as they grow.
If you have ever been to a town that only has one cell tower nearby and everyone is using it, you have experienced low bandwidth. Too many users can slow internet speeds to a crawl. This issue plagues the current widely used satellite internet systems. Starlink engineers claim that their system will be easily scalable and allow them to grow with the user base.
“This is not going to be like your regular satellite internet where it gets way too crowded–as we launch more satellites over time, the network will get increasingly great, not increasingly worse.” The Starlink team said.
Keep your eye on Starlink Internet
Like all new and groundbreaking projects, it has a ways to go. It may still be a year or two before we are driving around in our RVs with our Starlink dishes ready to be deployed for Netflix at a moment’s notice.
Starlink engineers are working on the issues, and they will take all the help and suggestions they can get.
To quote the Starlink team, “We are super excited about the initial response and future potential of Starlink, but we still have a ton to learn. If you know any great people who can help us with that, please have them email their resume to [email protected].”
In the video below, Chris Dunphy from Mobile Internet Resource Center discusses some more information from the Reddit thread.
You can learn more about the speeds, cost, and how Starlink Internet differs from traditional satellite internet in this Do It Yourself RV article. You may also want to invest in an RV WiFi booster – learn more about them here.