In mid January I wrote about my first exposure to Starlink as a source of affordable broadband internet on a boat.
At the time, we had just installed it aboard and were getting to know the unit. It was an amazing realization to have access to internet speeds that were higher than we get at home with fiber optic cables. In some ways the speed, price and ease of use seemed too good to be true. Follow this link to my first reaction.
So, here we are a month later and I have learned a lot about the system and what we might expect in the coming months.
As a refresher, there are three versions of Starlink, residential, mobile and maritime.
Residential is designed to be mounted on a home or other stationary object. The cost, in addition to the purchase of the dish, is a bit more than cable at $110 a month on an annual plan. In spite of being a little more expensive than traditional cable services, there is a waiting list for shipping because of such high interest.
The RV unit is what I ordered for Pandora, a system designed to use on a camper, for example, but not necessarily from a moving object. The unit itself cost $700 plus a service at $135 a month and you can cancel or restart the plan a month at a time. It’s really designed to be used in the country where you purchase it but we and many others have taken delivery in the US and are now using it on our boats here in the Caribbean. As a point of interest, there has been a lot of talk about what happens if you take delivery of a unit in the US and use it in the Caribbean as that is a totally different area and we are supposed to use it in the same continent where it is delivered. Well, I found out last night when I received a notice that my monthly fee was going to go up to $150/month. Still reasonable if a bit pricy. The reason for the price increase wasn’t clear and didn’t specifically note my location. I guess, details to come.
It’s worth noting that the “fine print” states that our access may be limited if we stray too far from home for too long. Fingers crossed on that point.
The third version and the most expensive is their Maritime version, designed for use on commercial vessels, mega yachts and cruise ships. The hardware costs several thousand and carries a monthly service plan of about $5,000.
I understand that the maritime version has advertised speeds of between 300 and 400 baud, hugely fast. Even on Pandora we have seen speeds upwards of 100 baud in an area that they identify as having modest coverage. Where we are, near the yellow arrow, shows as limited coverage. This is a visual representation of what will be a galaxy of satellites to be launched in the coming years, in the thousands, many more than are up there now. It’s pretty amazing.There are loads of YouTube videos on Starlink but this one is an excellent overview of the program and how it works. It also goes into other types of communication but if you want to see Starlink alone, go to about 9 minutes and 30 seconds in the video and start there. This video is an excellent explanation of what is “behind the curtain”. It’s remarkable that a private company, Musk, has accomplished something of this magnitude. After years of chasing wifi and dealing with crappy cell connections, Starlink just feels like a miracle.
And, sometimes miracles aren’t what they seem and when I ordered the RV version, designed to be used in the US from a van, and had it brought down to Antigua, I was fearful that Starlink would catch on and say “whoa!, that’s not what we sent you the unit for!”, and cut me off.
I still fear that will happen as they have a maritime version for marine use, even if it costs WAY more than I could ever afford. And, in the fine print that explains the terms of service for RV, it’s clear that we are not following the rules and I have been wondering if they might cut me off.
However, last night I received an email that alerted me to a price increase to $150/month, and thanking me for my support. I’ll admit that when I saw the email I was expecting something much worse.
So, is Starlink too good to be true? Time will tell if they restrict the RV version but for now it seems pretty awesome and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the good times will continue to roll.
For the moment I still have the antenna mounted on the deck but when we are in a marina in St Lucia in March I’ll move it up onto the radar arch in a semi-permanent install and reconsider the best options when I get Pandora home next summer.
If beauty is as beauty does, than this is indeed a beautiful antenna.Internet speeds on a boat faster than home? It’s here. Well, at least until Musk changes his mind…