STARLINK — SOLVING CONNECTIVITY ISSUES WHEN WORKING ON THE ROAD?
Starlink for RVs offers an great opportunity for people who want to work on the road, but it does have some draw-backs that hopefully will be addressed in future releases.
I’m camping up in a remote part of the NSW highlands region in Australia, about 25kms away from the nearest small township, Glen Innes, and yet I’ve got better connectivity with faster download speeds than I do at home on the Eastern Seaboard. The Starlink RV package which arrived shortly before I left home, has enabled me to have a different experience while on the road. Without Starlink, I would have virtually no connectivity at all. Up here in this part of the hills, I can’t even get any mobile phone reception and I can’t even send or receive text messages. There is no internet, no 5G, no 4G, no 3G, even. However, with the Starlink satellite dish positioned up on the front of my AOR Matrix off-road caravan, I have no problem easily getting 58mbps (and often much faster) download speeds, even when the sky is totally obscured with cloud. The sturdy Starlink dish with its solid base has set solidly and calmly through torrential rain and hail, while dealing unconcernedly with the strong and gusty winds which are a feature of the always changeable weather up here in the highlands. The Starlink router is similarly sturdy and weatherproof, as is the long, thick cable which connects the two. Hardly surprising, since this is the same unit which is supplied for permanent, domestic, installation — and it has been designed to sit outside on the roof of a house all year round. It even has a feature which melts snow and ice from the dish, when detected. That means that its not exactly lightweight — you won’t be carrying this around in a knapsack; it’s fine for RVers and ‘Vanners, but there is a weight premium to pay. The fact that the hardware has been primarily designed for permanent, fixed, installation may also be at the root of its other main drawback, besides weight — amazingly for a so-called ‘RV’ system, it isn’t supplied with any 12V (or 24V) power system. This ‘RV’ unit comes stock standard with an AC/DC 240V plug with no adapter. So, the only way to go is through an invertor. No real challenge to most dedicated RVers or ‘Vanners, I would imagine, who would already be carrying such equipment, but still a major nuisance. You don’t really want to keep your main invertor on all the time, as this would be a drain on your batteries, but if you want always-on internet, you have no choice.
This may be less of a drawback than it sounds, however, as the Starlink sips power relatively modestly (Average: 50–75W, Idle: 20W; Peak: 100–240V~ 2.0A 50–60Hz, according to Starlink’s own figures) and switching it on and off via an invertor offers no problems, as the system isn’t finicky; turn on the invertor and after 3–4 minutes you’ll be fully online again. Initial set-up is also incredibly easy: download and configure the Starlink app; place the dish in an area where it will have an unobstructed view of the sky; supply power to the system and it will search the sky for the nearest satellite; and that’s it, you’re all set. So moving around with the Starlink from campsite to campsite is entirely practical and relatively easy; just remember to put the dish into ‘stow mode’ through the app before you pack it away for transit.
Many potential users may be deterred by the cost. Starlink isn’t cheap. To start off there’s an initial outlay for the hardware: the dish with robust stand and cabling; and the router, which takes a minimalistic design aesthetic to extremes, with no switches, no bleeps, no blinking lights, zilch. Then there’s the on-going monthly fee, which is currently a hefty AU$174 per month. With the RV plan though (as opposed to the standard residential Starlink plan) it is possible to ‘pause’ and ‘unpause’ the service, and use it only when you actually need it, when you’re on the road. Although given Australia’s relatively lousy broadband network (especially in regional areas), it may make sense for some folks to ditch their existing provider altogether and sign up for a much faster service that they can use both home and away.
With Starlink now covering all of Australia, the ability to work on the road becomes a reality. Hopefully, with a future release they’ll address the main negative issue and provide a 12V/24V power pack for those of us who want to use the service professionally while travelling.
Starlink RV available here: https://www.starlink.com/rv