That’s the main topic we discuss in Episode 402 of the RV Podcast. You can watch the full video version below, in which we also share RV news and answer RV Lifestyle questions.
If you’d prefer an audio-only version of the podcast, you can listen to it on all the major podcast apps or just click the audio player below.
Just as we recorded this episode, we learned of a major threat to the satellite-based Internet service coming from DISH Network, which is heavily lobbying Congress and the FCC to claim new rights to the frequency spectrum Starlink operates in.
Starlink accuses DISH of hoarding spectrum for years “as a strategy for preventing open and fair competition.
“Most recently, DISH has been attempting to claim new rights to the 12 GHz band, which is the spectrum you currently use to download content with Starlink,” claims Starlink in a letter sent to its subscribers urging them to contact their representatives in Congress. “Despite technical studies dating back as far as 2016 that refute the basis of their claims, DISH has employed paid lobbyists who are attempting to mislead the FCC with faulty analysis in hopes of obscuring the truth.”
Starlink claims “if DISH gets their way, Starlink customers will experience harmful interference more than 77% of the time and total outage of service 74% of the time, rendering Starlink unusable for most Americans.“
The dispute is going to be bitterly fought and while it has nothing to do with our operational experience with the Starlink service, it’s another potential issue that could certainly make our five disappointments much worse.
So while that issue works its way through the politics and conflicting claims of the various parties, let me talk about what we have directly experienced and the disappointments we have.
Before we get to them, we need to explain the different types of services Starlink is offering.
There are three main tiers of service.
- Residential – at $110 a month. This is for a fixed location. Many, many areas are already sold out and no new users are being accepted.
- Residential with Portability – at $135 a month. Your system is registered at a permanent address but you have enabled portability, meaning you can take it with you and use it, even in over-subscribed areas. You pay month to month, even if you are not using it.
- RV – at $135 a month. Like portability, you can use Starlink wherever you go. The big reason to choose the RV plan is that users can stop and start service as they want. Residential users who enable portability can’t. If a residential user stops service, they have to apply all over again and find a permanent address that is not sold out.
There is also a business tier but since that applies to very few RVers, we’ll move on. Just know that the Portability and RV tiers have become available in the past several weeks and it’s likely as Starlink matures, more service options will be announced.
If you want to know more basic details about Starlink, check out these previous stories that I have done:
- Starlink for RVers is now here – This explains how RVers are using the service
- Starlink for RVers – My Install – This explains how we set Starlink up in our RV
I want to focus the rest of this article on what we see as some issues with the service that Rvers need to be aware of.
Don’t get me wrong. Starlink is fast.
Broadband fast, sometimes reaching speeds at well over 100 Mbps.
But you know what, so is 5G cellular in many parts of the country. And those super-fast Starlink speeds are not consistent.
Depending how oversubscribed your area may be and how congested Starlink traffic is, we have often found that cellular Internet – even 4G LTE – is better than Starlink.
Like cellular, Starlink throttles speeds – they call it deprioritizing you – when you are operating portable out of your registered home area.
Sometimes only 1 or 2 Mbps. Rarely over 5, which is the bare minimum you need for a reliable video upload or a quality Zoom call with a good camera.
We have not once been able to get enough upload speed to do our livestreams on the road with Starlink. That has been a major bummer.
We love trees.
We love boondocking in out of the way places.
But even mounted on a 20-foot pole on my RV, reliable and consistent Starlink connectivity requires a clear sky. Yes, it can connect with some trees in its field of vision. But it drops connection every 30-40 seconds, every time the satellite it’s tracking is partially blocked by the trees.
The drops don’t last long – another satellite is right behind the obscured one – but the constant drops are very annoying.
So is always having to set up camp in a clearing, which is necessary for a solid connection.
Mike and Jennifer’s RV Lifestyle hat collection
Who needs a hat? You do! Dad hats aren’t just for dads. This one’s got a low profile with an adjustable strap and curved visor. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.
I guess I should say, not yet.
But despite those YouTube videos you’ve seen from do-it-yourself RVers who have jerry-rigged ways to anchor the antenna on the roof of the RV and get it working while in motion, Starlink says such use is prohibited and those who do so can have their access pulled.
We know Starlink is working on in-motion use but big questions remain on whether a different antenna will be required and how much more such a convenience will cost.
So, meanwhile, it has to be set up and taken down and stowed every time you set up camp and move.
The gear costs $599.
Then, whether with the portability or RV plan, it costs $135 a month.
If that was for a consistently fast and reliable signal, it would be a bargain.
But because, in my opinion, Starlink for RVers is at best a backup system, it’s not enough for those who must have solid Internet wherever they are.
Thus, you need another system which will likely be cellular, which will cost another $135 or more per month for a decent amount of bandwidth.
OK. Those are my big five disappointments with Starlink. But let me be clear. I am going to keep it.
I do believe it will only get better as SpaceX is putting 60-100 new satellites into orbit every month. They plan to up those launches even more in the months ahead. So congestion will ease.
I think of we RVers who are using Starlink as early adapters. Two, three years from now, I fully expect those disappointments will no longer make Starlink our back up Internet and that the system will be as reliable as remote workers need.
And for right now, we still travel far enough off the grid that we find ourselves in areas where there is no cell service. That’s when Starlink really shines.
First, because it works there when cellular doesn’t, and, second, precisely because it is in a remote area and there aren’t a lot of other Starlink users in the area, speeds and reliability are at their best.
So, bottom line, Starlink is great. I’m glad we have it. But it’s just not as great right now as I hoped.
I will be patient.
Let us hear your stories of using Starlink in the comments or in our social posts.
Meanwhile, let’s go RVing!
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