The massive constellation of low orbiting satellites being launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) each month has been recently been switched on for mobile use.
In a March 3, 2022 tweet, Musk himself announced, saying: “Mobile roaming enabled, so phased array antenna can maintain signal while on moving vehicle.”
The tweet came at about the same time Musk announced that he had sent Starlink communications gear to help Ukraine stay connected to the Internet as Russia continued to attack its infrastructure. So the mobile roaming tweet didn’t get noticed much by mainstream media.
But RVers sure noticed it and have been quick to see if that upgrade was working. And as we report in RV Podcast 387 this week, some RVers are discovering that it is!
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As we noted in the podcast, a handful of very visible RVers have been experimenting with Starlink for the better part of a year now. Many bought residential – fixed location systems – and then used the Starlink app to change their locations as they traveled across the country.
Sometimes, the area they tried to activate was closed because it was either oversubscribed or it just wasn’t serviced by the satellites yet. Those areas are constantly changing, though, as SpaceX continues putting new satellites into orbit with rocket launches. Those launches have been putting from 60 to 120 new Starling satellites into service almost monthly and pretty much all of the U.S. and much of Canada is now covered.
Here’s an excellent report about Starlink for RV travelers from Mark Quido of Grand Adventure that shows the often painstaking task nomadic RVers have in of finding open areas as they travel:
As you can see, changing your location and finding an open Starlink cell is often a hit or miss proposition. Doable. But annoying.
Then came the March 3 announcement from Elon Musk that mobile roaming is available.
Shortly after that tweet. Marcus Tuck, a UK overlander touring North America in an Iveco Daily 4 x 4 and an early Starlink user, went to his Starling app and, sure enough, found that it now read that roaming was true, or enabled. On his Tuck’s Trucks blog, he detailed his efforts to see if his Starlink dish antenna could be made to work on the roof of his 4 x 4 while in motion
Read his blog post for the details on the DIY adjustments he had to make but the answer was… yes.
With Tuck’s post, another Starlink user and the creator of the MikeOnSpace YouTube Channel, also saw his roaming feature had been switched on. He quickly fashioned a custom mount for the antenna – which Starlink calls Dishy- and affixed it to the roof of his car. Then he took off with Starlink connected…at speeds up to 80 mph.
Here’s his video:
Since then, there have been numerous other reports from Starlink customers who noticed, they too, had roaming on.
Alas, not every Starlink customer has that feature enabled.
It appears Starlink is rolling it out on a limited basis.
Some users who checked after seeing the reports above, initially found roaming still listed as false on their app. But then, a few days later, they found it listed as true.
Starlink is not releasing a lot of information about this. Just as certain parts of the country are not available for new subscribers, Starlink is being very selective in turning it on for everyone at the same time.
It is for me. I ordered my system a couple of days ago. My Michigan home cell is oversubscribed and will only take reservations on a waiting list (for a $99 deposit). Starlink displayed a note when I tried to order for that location advising me that it could take until 2023 for me to get service there.
I got the same note for our Tennessee property.
The area around my Florida condo, where we are now, was open and I immediately ordered a system ($500), which will be delivered less than a week after my order (see my shipping notice below).
I can’t wait.
As noted above, Starlink service can be activated for different parts of North America as we travel. If mobile roaming is not yet enabled for me, we can plan out our travels to visit areas where open Starlink cells are available. It’s perfectly fine to change my service address to such areas.
But I am reasonably confident that mobile roaming is soon coming.
Meantime, with its massively fast download speeds (250 Mbps) and routine upload speeds often exceeding 20 Mbps), Starlink will be the Internet service I have long dreamed of, especially when doing our frequent live Internet broadcasts from our travels.
I just need to be a little patient for full implementation.
Recently on the Starlink website, a premium service has been featured. Said to start shipping in the second quarter of 2022, it will offer more than double the antenna capability of Starlink and faster Internet speeds than the current basic service.
Premium service will cost $500 a month, though, compared to the $99 service for regular users.
The premium service will certainly appeal to commercial users, i.e. think trucking fleets.
Many speculate that the upgraded antenna will specifically be capable for in-motion use.
Those experimenters whose videos we show above did some tweaking and adjusting of the standard dishy antenna to make it work for them. Without those adjustments, the standard antennas would have had difficulty in motion.
Personally, I can’t justify $500 a month for service.
But if I can get mobile roaming so that, wherever I go my system will connect, I will truly be a happy camper.
As I said, the system has now been used by enough RVers to convince me that it’s time to order.
How about you? Use the comments below to share your thoughts.
Meantime, stay tuned. I’ll document our experience when my system arrives.