Friday, September 17, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021

Satellite broadband internet becoming a reality? Maybe!

SpaceX Starlink has placed more than 1,700 satellites into low-earth orbit and has a total of more than 12,000 satellites planned. Starlink’s mission is to bring high-speed internet to everyone on Earth, regardless of location. It looks like they are moving ahead with plans for a Starlink satellite mobile broadband service using a new antenna design.

Starlink Satellite Dish
Starlink Satellite Dish

Starlink’s service is still in the testing phase and is only open to certain parts of the U.S. and Canada. But when Starlink goes on sale to the public, it will cover most of the globe. Starlink is aimed at more sparsely populated areas and Elon Musk has described it as meant to complement fiber-optic and 5G networks.

Home bound

Starlink’s internet service is currently aimed at homeowners, renters, or other fixed positions on the ground and was designed to be installed in place with a clear view of the sky. As RVtravel.com publisher Chuck Woodbury recently reported based on information from Mobile Internet Resource Center, you technically can move Starlink dishes around, but if your new location has maxed out the number of users, you won’t be allowed to connect to the network.

Starlink dish antenna mounted to house
Starlink antenna on house roof. From starlink.com

Hitting the road

Good news, though. In recent FCC filings, Starlink has applied for a license authorizing operation of “Earth Stations in Motion.” In English, that’s a mobile broadband internet connection from space to ground. If they can pull this off, this will be a huge deal. (Intel tried and failed with the WiMax back in the 2000s.) It would mean that RVers finally would have access to high-speed internet anywhere they go, even on the go!

Boeing Phased Array Flat Antenna
Boeing’s Phased Array Antenna.

In another filing, Starlink applied for a license outlining a ruggedized antenna that would be capable of receiving and sending signals to the Starlink satellite network. I looked at the filing and in it they describe a “phased array” antenna. A phased array antenna is flat and uses software to “aim” it at the satellite system. Boeing used these in the early 2000s and they continue to work on them today for military applications. If Starlink uses this type of antenna, then you won’t even have a large dome or antenna you have to raise and lower on top of your RV.

In their application, Starlink says:

Granting this application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based component for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide – and most particularly, to those in challenging environments where ruggedization is appropriate.

Starlink also filed an application with the FCC to use additional bandwidth to lower latency and increase speed. And Starlink continues to build out its network of satellites and improve the software. Recently users have reported speeds just shy of 100Mbits/sec. That’s true broadband speed and almost twice what it was just a couple of months ago.

Is Starlink the answer?

So, is the Starlink satellite mobile broadband service the answer to true mobile high-speed internet? Perhaps, but let’s remember that this whole system is still in “beta” testing and many things aren’t ready for prime time and some technologies might not make it to the top of your RV.

Starlink Satellite Dish nxt to remote lake.
Starlink satellite dish in a remote location.

For instance, while an internet speed of 100mb/sec is broadband, the current quality of the connection, or latency, is still not as good as your cable or fiber connection at home. It’s still much better than other satellite internet providers and as good as any solid 5G connection. There are also things that interrupt service like trees, tall buildings or other tall antennas. So don’t count on putting Starlink in your RV in 2021. But with SpaceX continuing to launch satellites and work on the system, you might be able to have true broadband anywhere in North America in the next couple of years. We’ll keep you up to date as more info becomes available.

Kim Christiansen is the owner of SiteBastion LLC and provides website management, security, and support to RVtravel.com. You can find out more at his website sitebastion.com or find him on twitter @sitebastion.

Parts of this story were found here at PCMag.com.

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Vicki
1 month ago

Point of interest….Checked download speed….115 Mb

Vicki
1 month ago

I live in a rural area in northwest Arizona. Purchased Starlink, ( quick delivery), It is mounted on my flat roof and I had instant internet connections. As long as you are physically able to mount it…..it takes little time. I did purchase 3 concrete 8″ X 16″ blocks to prevent the occasional high winds from moving it, a concrete drill bit and 3 bolts to attach the tripod. Hired a young man to place it on the roof . The 100 ft. cable was plenty to run it to my office below. Love it !!

George
1 month ago

Lots of positive technical and some negative comments about Starlink long term economic survivability. The debunking video ignores commercial and military/gov use of the system, possible classified contracts, and cell carrier backhaul data contracts. Time will tell. Not sure where one commenter gets “broadband for a flat $40/mo”. My just-above poverty level 50Mb/sec cable service is $65/mo. I welcome any competition. Also, my recent experience with my new coach’s Winegard Denali system is underwhelming at the several campgrounds we have used it at (we dont use the cell link for a couple of reasons: no Verizon SIM and $$$). If/when a Starlink mobile terminal for the RV becomes available I will be sorely tempted. Especially if I can tether off of it for the house while the RV is sitting in the driveway.

Jerry Attrix
1 month ago
Reply to  George

George: We have CenturyLink Price for Life plan at $40 a month flat

Tony
1 month ago
Jerry Parkinson
1 month ago

This article is a little behind. Most of these things have already happened. The service is open to the public for about $500 up front for the equipment and then $100 per month for the service. My friends just hooked up and the speed is phenomenal.

Irv
1 month ago

The article isn’t behind.

“if your new location has maxed out the number of users, you won’t be allowed to connect to the network.”

Your friends must be in a zip code with available capacity.

Greg
1 month ago

AFAIK, Starlink is intended to cover the less densely populated areas and areas outside those severed by conversational methods. Each satellite has a finite number of channels so it’s possible to over load them. That said, it’s early and I doubt it’s a problem anywhere yet.

Again, AFAIK, the Boeing antenna system is also used on commercial and executive jets.

Bob p
1 month ago

It’ll probably be like his Tesla cars, so expensive only the well off can afford it. I don’t see it in my future at 78.

John H
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

Yes cost of starlink ($500 up front (dish warranty lasts only 1 year) + $100/month + power bill for running power hungry dish) is prohibitive except for anyone who absolutely needs it. Starlink claims to cover the globe, but for most of global population in countries like India and China, cost is way beyond their budget. My broadband internet costs only $40/month flat ( I bought cable modem myself for $10), and no it’s not introductory rate (which was $15/month).

Jeff Craig
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

You’ll forgive me, but unless you have your grandkids over all the time, I’m doubting you are their target market. That said, for those of us who need a fast connection (above 6Mbps), or do not need data caps (like cable and traditional satellite services have), or work on the road then this is a god-send. While I rely on my mobile phones hotspots for our weekend get aways, when I finally roll to a full-timer role, this will be able to provide me coverage in areas with marginal cell signal, and at much faster speeds.

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