Elon Musk has said that Starlink will be coming out of beta in October 2021. When a product emerges from beta testing, this usually means it will be available to the public. So what does Starlink emerging from beta mean for the digital nomad? Let’s find out!
What Is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite-based internet service that provides reliable internet at speeds rivaling wired connections. The service is based on thousands of low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites that scream through the sky. The low orbit of these satellites significantly improves the latency and speed of the internet connection.
What Is Starlink Beta?
Starlink has signed up around 100,000 users to test the service for a year through the beta testing program. We are one of those users.
Beta testing is a term used in the technology world to describe the final step in testing a product or software. It’s a form of user acceptance testing to make sure the tech performs as it should.
Starlink tracks all of the usage and performance data from beta testing. They then use this data to improve the service and prepare for its final release.
The initial equipment cost was $500, and the monthly service fee was $100. Overall, many beta users, including us, have seen speeds of 80-150 Mbps (megabits per second) and latencies around 40 ms (milliseconds) or less. In layman’s terms, that’s excellent internet!
What Does the End of Beta Mean for RVers and Nomads?
When a product or service exits beta, it usually becomes available to customers. Starlink has said it has over 500,000 preorders, and most of those users should get their dish after beta testing ends. The majority of preorders were not selected for the beta test. This means RVers and digital nomads will be able to order and get service.
One major drawback that beta users have had is the inability to move the system. Once you set a service address, the equipment uses GPS to determine its location. If you move it, the system shuts down.
We hope that when the beta ends, so do the geo-restrictions. Earlier this year, Musk had tweeted that Starlink should be “fully mobile” by the end of 2021. Hopefully, this means October.
Currently, only one dish option is available to beta users. With the end of beta, we expect an upgraded dish and possibly alternative equipment to get and stay connected, like a rooftop antenna for RVs, busses, and planes. One major drawback to the current dish offering is that it requires 120V power and draws a lot of it. We frequently see power use around 90 to 100 watts almost continuous. This is quite a draw on our off-grid solar system.
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Why Is Mobile Internet So Important for RVers?
We are all so used to being connected to the internet these days that unreliable or slow internet can really hamper our lifestyles.
If you’re not a digital nomad and just using your RV to get away, reliable internet might not be as important to you. But full-time RVers like us work from the road and always need a connection. We’ve been to some amazing places, and it’s always a good feeling to have internet no matter where we roam.
➡ Learn how we stayed connected on our 6-month road trip to the Arctic Ocean: Connectivity in Alaska & Canada
Currently, LTE or cellular-based internet is the best option for RVers, but it’s limited in range and can get blocked by hills or mountains. Given the nature of an internet that can come from the sky, Starlink and other LEO satellite services offer hope that one day we will indeed be able to work from anywhere in the world.
Beyond digital nomads that want to work from the road, there are still millions of people without access to reliable internet in rural parts of the United States and the world. As more and more devices rely on the internet for operation, everyone must have access to a solid net.
Where Will Starlink Get Service?
In theory, Starlink can get service anywhere it has a view of the sky. Presently, this is only in the Northern Hemisphere, but soon it could be worldwide. The equipment, however, will not operate like a cell phone. Tall buildings and trees can block the view of the dish and degrade service. On the other hand, any open and somewhat remote areas should be able to get service.
Additionally, there is the potential that Starlink may not work well in cities due to overcrowding. If too many people try to connect to one satellite, “congestion” occurs, and the speeds will slow. While urban dwellers may find this problematic, RVers and digital nomads will likely benefit.
Starlink for RVers Is Still Uncertain
The news of Starlink coming out of beta is very exciting for those looking to connect to the internet everywhere they go.
However, this service still has many obstacles to overcome before it becomes a one-stop shop for RV internet. These obstacles include sky visibility, the size and mobility of the hardware, and the power consumption. It may be some time before Starlink is truly mobile.
Starlink also only has a license as of this article to sell service to one million customers. While that may sound like a lot, the FCC estimates that over 19 million people still lack access to broadband internet in the U.S. alone.
Despite the obstacles and limitations, this news is exciting to us. Hopefully, the end of Starlink beta means we are one step closer to a worldwide reliable internet.
You don’t have to wait for Starlink. If you need reliable internet now, this in-depth guide can help: How To Get Reliable RV Internet On The Move
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