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Is Starlink The Best Option For RV Internet?

These days, if you head to almost any campground, you will see Starlink dishes attached to RV’s. Why? Well, SpaceX’s Starlink emerges as a frontrunner in the race for satellite internet supremacy and has been revolutionizing connectivity for RV and boat owners. This next-gen system isn’t your traditional satellite internet; it’s akin to thousands of orbiting cell towers, ensuring high-speed, global coverage. Its affordability puts it within reach of consumers, marking a major shift in satellite internet accessibility. But is it the right choice for RVers? Lets find out.

extremely remote RV
Were not afraid to go remove with Starlink onboard

Why Starlink Stands Out

Starlink’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites offers significantly reduced latency and increased bandwidth compared to traditional geostationary systems. This constellation is ever-expanding, reflecting Starlink’s commitment to evolving and adapting in a pioneering market.

Despite its rapid development, Starlink’s journey isn’t without challenges. The platform experiences frequent updates and growing pains, indicating a service still finding its footing. We have been testing Starlink since the beginning, and it seems to change plans, options, dishes, and services every few months.

Regardless of this we would not be without Starlink in an RV. However, we need the internet every day to work, and we love to go to places without cell coverage. Thus its a requirement. However, Starlink might not be necessary if you don’t have these requirements, as cell these days is pretty good. Let’s dig a little deeper to learn more.

How To Get Unbreakable Mobile Internet Everywhere you Go In 2023 + Product Giveaway!

The Technical Edge

Starlink’s operational model is a stark contrast to older geostationary systems. While geostationary satellites are static relative to the Earth, causing higher latency due to their distance, Starlink’s LEO satellites are much closer and constantly moving. This design necessitates a sophisticated user dish capable of real-time communication and tracking, ensuring continuous coverage but requiring a more complex setup.

While We have been using Starlink for RV travel since it became available, but we have discovered there are pros and cons to the service.

Pros

  • Global Coverage: Almost anywhere on Earth, including over oceans.
  • Ease of Setup and Use: Despite its complex technology, the end-user experience is straightforward.
  • Borderless Service: With the right plan, Starlink works seamlessly across borders.
No cell location starlink only for RV
There was no cell or other internet at this location, but we had a wonderful time here continuing to work thanks to starlink, (dish lower right)

Cons

  • Obstructions Impact Performance: Trees, buildings, and terrain can disrupt service.
  • Weather Sensitivity: Heavy precipitation can affect connectivity.
  • Bulkier Equipment: Compared to simpler cellular devices, Starlink’s gear is more cumbersome.
  • Power Usage: The system consumes more power than typical cellular setups.
  • Not Available Everywhere: We have never encountered it, but there are some locations and latitudes that are not served by starlink
lighting storm with our rv
It takes alot of rain or snow to knock out Starlink, but it does happen so dont plan to rely on it in a big storm

One thing that needs to be considered with Stalink for an RV setup is the dish selection. Most people opt for the standard dish that comes with the kit, you might want to consider a high performance dish.

  1. Standard Actuated Dish
    • Comes with a base to stand upright, suitable for temporary setup.
    • Offers a variety of pole-mount options for more permanent or secure installation.
    • Its portability allows it to be set in the best location, away from obstructions.
  2. Standard Dish with Kickstand (upcoming in 2024)
    • Features a removable kickstand for optimal aiming and rain runoff.
    • Can be laid flat or angled, depending on the situation.
    • Starlink also offers accessories for more conventional fixed mounting onto roofs and poles.
    • Suitable for both temporary placement and semi-permanent installation.
  3. Flat High Performance Dish
    • Designed for permanent flat-mounting on an RV, boat, or vehicle.
    • Comes with a wedge mount for a secure installation.
    • Not intended for frequent relocation; ideal for users who prefer a fixed setup.
    • Takes up significant room and requires a dedicated space on the vehicle.

Dish Considerations for RVs:

  • Space and Placement: Consider the available space on your RV and whether you prefer a dish that can be easily moved or one that is permanently mounted.
  • Portability vs. Permanent Setup: The Standard dishes offer more flexibility and are easier to set up and take down, while the Flat High Performance dish is best for a fixed, permanent setup.
  • Obstructions: If you often park in areas with trees or other obstructions, the portability of the Standard dishes might be advantageous, as you can move them to a clearer location.

Each mounting option has its own set of advantages, depending on your specific needs, RV size, and travel style. Whether you need a portable solution that can be set up and taken down easily or a more permanent fixture on your RV, there’s a Starlink dish and mounting option to suit your requirements.

We combined the standard actuated dish with a new product called the Starvector mount. This unique mount allows the dish to retain its actuated motors that align it but flat mount in a configuration that works 90% of the time. This mount easily allows the dish to be removed and ground or pole mounted near the coach if obstructions are directly above, giving us maximum flexibility.

New Mount For Starlink! Introducing the Starvector mount from the makers of solarvector! #rvlife

When Starlink first became available, all plans offered the same speed. Now, however, Starlink prioritizes stationary customers (in homes) or those who pay for higher-tier plans. The standard RV plan provides unlimited internet at the “best speeds available.” This means that if many other dishes around you have priority data, your internet may slow. In general, we see speeds around 20mbs down and 5mbs up currently with the regular data plan. This is on the slower side of the internet these days, and many 5G cell plans could see 10x that speed.

stalink dish mounted on an RV
This is a common sight in campgrounds these days, Dishes mounted to RV’s

Starlink Isn’t the Only Answer

Despite its advantages, Starlink might not fulfill all connectivity needs because of what we have mentioned. It’s often used alongside other internet sources like cellular and Wi-Fi for consistent coverage in obstructed or congested areas. This complementary approach maximizes reliability and coverage, especially when used with advanced routers capable of failover and bonding.

Our video at the top of this article talks in detail about how we use a Pepwave router to combine multiple internets together to provide the most reliable mobile connection possible. In fact, I am writing this right now on that system.

Starlink is a revolutionary step in satellite internet technology, but it’s not without its limitations. As a relatively new service, it faces the challenges of constant change, customer service responsiveness, and dealing with the elements and obstructions. Yet, its potential to provide fast, reliable internet in remote areas makes it a compelling option for RV and boat owners, especially when used in conjunction with other internet sources.

In conclusion, while Starlink may not be the ultimate standalone solution for mobile internet, it certainly is a significant player in the connectivity game, offering unique benefits and expanding the possibilities for nomadic lifestyles.

Will you sign up for Starlink for RVs? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Eno Hiker

Monday 15th of January 2024

I'm conflicted about getting Starlink. First, the thought of giving my money to Elon Musk churns my gut. Also, our family is much more present & connected with one another when we don't have internet. I hate to give that up. Secretly, I'm thrilled when we arrive at a campsite and only have enough cell service for occasional texting. On the other hand, trip planning would be a lot easier if we had reliable internet. For now, I think we will stay with cellular coverage. We travel often to and within the National Parks. Although cell service is spotty or nonexistent at some campsites, we can usually get service somewhere nearby.

JOHN C MITCHELL

Saturday 13th of January 2024

I got one of the first ones - 10-minute setup - time to run the cable through the bedroom window and across the hall to my computer room. I simply plugged it in and away it went. The price went up a little over the years and the speed dropped a little, but it never failed me. I tried Xplorenet and cell phone before that with extreme frustration, but Starlink offered none of that. It kept on working during cold (-30.C) and snow. I have just switched to fiber to try it out and at 1/2 the cost. It is a great system and many people criticize Musk but he put his money and time where his mouth is. It is fantastic that there is world wide communication available for rural connection at a reasonable cost. Thanks Starlink.

Mark Generales

Saturday 13th of January 2024

Wow, all this info and NOT ONE WORD ABOUT COST? PURCHASE? MONTHLY?

Tom and Caitlin Morton

Friday 1st of March 2024

Changes monthly it seems, check out their site but the RV plan is 120 right now and equipment is 600. stationary plans are 90.

Tim

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Had my Starlink RV for about 3 weeks now. Our first trip we went to Joe's Valley Reservoir (UT). Unboxed, and within 1/2hr had everything working ! We had 100mbps for almost all the time. Everyone at camp wanted to use my wifi, and at times we had 12 people using it, and I was still able to stream Prime Video shows. I had the router plugged into my Yeti 1500 as I didn't want to use the RV inverter, and the Yeti said it had over 30 hrs of use left. All in all it was a great move for me! Come winter I will just postpone the service until spring again. Another nice thing is when my DSL goes down at home, I can just get out my Starlink and use it while I wait for my DSL to get fixed.

Dana D

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Will not sign up for StarLink. Too expensive.