Does Satellite Internet Have Limits?
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX would like you to believe that the possibilities are endless and allow instant connection from anywhere in the world.
But it will take time to get there as Starlink 2.0 launches are still awaiting approval and the service is not currently available on-move, although it will be soon if you fly Hawaiian Airlines.
Two YouTubers, Melanny Rendon & Evan Hendricks, recently posted a video on, ‘out of this Van’ channel, showing them testing Starlink RV setup, internet speed, & capabilities from middle of the woods.
“The fact that we can camp in a remote location and have unlimited high-speed internet access is a game changer for content creators like us,” Hendricks said in an interview.
Starlink RV’s ‘quick’ setup is ‘a game changer’
SpaceX recently announced that it is expanding its Starlink satellite internet service for RV users, allowing them to pause their internet when they move to a new location and set it up again quickly once they arrive. The new service costs an additional $25 per month, taking total monthly fee of $135.
Setup is “easy and quick,” Hendricks told. “It’s still a new process for us and we’re finding new ways to simplify it every day, but overall it’s plug & play. Currently we pull-out our telescoping ladder, plug-in the satellite, connect it to the mount and then place it on the roof of our van.
It’s a setup that works well with limited space, Hendricks said, as satellite dish fits into an art bag that can-be strapped to the back of a chair. “This keeps the satellite stored safely out of our way and doesn’t take up critical space since our truck is already at full capacity,” he added.
In their video posted to Out of this Van over the weekend, Hendricks & Rendon demonstrate the plug-in process, Hendricks says it takes a few minutes for dish to orient it-self facing north. Although the video offers a glimpse of Starlink’s great potential to enable an envious off-grid lifestyle, Rendon clarifies that they don’t often get the advertised 150 Mbps.
“The speeds we’ve achieved are more than enough for our typical workflow,” Hendricks told. Though he said that “in our experience, we haven’t consistently hit 150Mbps the speeds still-fast” from 50-100Mbps range. This could be because users traveling with Starlink aren’t listed as priority, meaning if there’s a lot of traffic on the network, we’d be the first to hit .
While SpaceX hasn’t commented on prioritizing mobile or static Starlink users, it’s worth bearing in-mind that additional $25 monthly fee SpaceX says it charges due to the additional resources required to prioritize new locations.
Does Starlink RV work under trees?
In their summary of life on the road with Starlink RV, Rendon & Hendricks also went-off the beaten path to test the capabilities of the satellite internet service at a forest camping spot. “Trees are the number one complaint we hear about Starlink before to testing it-out,” Hendricks said. “Ultimately, trees are a problem. If you are in a dense forest, I find that it becomes unusable.
During their testing, the Out of This Van creators parked next to a tree in Flagstaff, Arizona. While the service allowed them to send email, download files, and do research for their videos, “it didn’t work perfectly for video calls, Zoom meetings, gaming, or anything that requires a constant connection,” Hendricks explained.
That’s because the couple was able to collect data through their Starlink app that showed the extent of the connectivity issues in the forest: “In our case, when streaming a TV show, we had around 20-30 intrruptions ranging from 3-60 seconds while streaming a 1 hour on Netflix.” he Said. Shows on Netflix are pre-loaded as you watch, meaning those interruptions went unnoticed, although video calls would likely be affected.
Still, Starlink has great potential when it comes to shared internet in rural areas and even off-grid areas. One Starlink user, Steve Birch, recently told he was considering opening its emergency solar power system to the public in a remote region near a popular but difficult mountain trail at sawtooth Mountains in ldaho. Similarly, in their video, Hendricks & Rendon explain that they would allow nearby campers a $3 daily fee for access.
Next, the Out of this Van team will travel to a “wetter, more densely forested climate” on Vancouver Island, Hendricks said and continues to test set-up as they travel to new locations across British Columbia. They are glad with the service, and Hendricks said they will still “to rely on Starlink over other Wi-Fi alternatives.”
“For the past few years of full-time travel, we have relied on our phone hotspots and cell-phone signal boosters,” he said. “Both work great when you are near a city, but we continue have to be careful how often and we use a lot of data as our hotspots are limited. Unless we’re somewhere with cell service, we generally have to drive a few hours from our off-grid camping location before we can find good service.”
Although coverage is not always perfect and there have been complaints in the astronomical community about Starlink’s adverse effects, the internet service has so far excelled at giving users more freedom and has been publicly praised for helping civilians connect in war-torn Ukraine. Competing services like Amazon’s Project Kuiper in the works, the technology will just become more accessible in the coming years.