Starlink, the satellite-based internet service provider from Elon Musk is generating a lot of buzz. If you hate your current ISP, it’s a promising alternative. If you live in a rural area, it’s an even more promising alternative. And if the pandemic pushed you into a more mobile lifestyle, Starlink could up the ante.
Satellite internet and phone service has been around for a long time, but it’s expensive and not nearly as fast as what you can get from your current ISP in an urban area. Viasat, one current provider, offers the fastest satellite internet speeds – up to 100 Mbps – and the most generous data allowances – up to 300 GB/mo. That runs up to $150/month. If you exceed your cap, the speeds drop. They have an unlimited plan that is $200 per month after an introductory period. HughesNet, the other big player has plans from $60 to $150 per month for 10 to 50 GB/mo. but with speeds up to 25 Mbps.
This is where Starlink enters. They’re hoping to take advantage of your hatred for your ISP (they claim 51 percent of Americans would sign up for their beta program once it’s available), and at first glance, it has an attraction. According to their figures, the average internet connection speed is 57.2 Mbps for $65/mo., an average of $1.13/Mbps. They claim you’ll be able to connect to Starlink at 103.1 Mbps for $99/mo., an average of $0.96/Mbps.
For terrestrial use, Starlink’s target is cities from 45 degrees north latitude (Lake Champlain, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Salem, OR to name a few) to 53 degrees (Calgary and Winnipeg in Canada). That’s way north of where most of you are likely to be. At 40 degrees, you might get some coverage in Newark and New York City. Starlink has already launched 1,000 satellites, but with a plan to have 42,000 in orbit, they have a long way to go. The FCC has approved 12,000 satellites.
But Starlink is not alone. Amazon has plans for Project Kuiper. While it hasn’t gotten off the ground yet, it is pitting Musk against Jeff Bezos. As two of the world’s richest individuals, they’ll be playing us as they square off, but at some point, we might win. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Amazon has approval for 3,200 satellites so far and hopes to have half of them launched by 2026.
In the meantime, Starlink is not cheap, either even though it may prove to be a bargain. You’ll need to pay $499 for a dish to use it. For most of us who are landlocked in urban America, we can generally do better with our current ISPs given all the demands we make on our bandwidth with working at home, schoolwork for our children and all those streaming devices we use.
But with the right equipment, Starlink will work in cars – and RVs. That jumps it to the head of the line for us. Before travel was restricted, we drove up and down the East Coast quite often. And anyone who’s run the length of I-95 knows that cell service decreases dramatically once you hit the South Carolina state line. It doesn’t get any better until you hit Florence.
If you have an RV and travel off the beaten path, getting internet service is always a concern. After all, we’re not willing to give up all the streaming capability we have at home, especially if we might still do work from the road. You’ll need to keep your Starlink dish in the car or RV with you.
You can go to Starlink’s website now to order your dish and download the iPhone or Android app for installation. Wherever you hope to use it, you will need a clear line of sight from the dish to the satellite(s).
We can help you decide if Starlink is for you and help you configure your system when it’s available. Just call us -973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.