Starlink Portability announced and available
It’s been a little unclear how Starlink would handle their dishes moving from place to place. Would they take steps to stop this? Would they embrace it? Would it be a separate offering? This week they’ve unveiled portability mode, a $25 per month add-on, and a little more clarity about how they handle mobile users.
When Starlink first started offering service via their better than nothing beta, they only offered service within a few miles of your service address. This continued as the service rolled out to wider availability until early April, when users began noticing a roaming flag being flipped in the Starlink app’s debug info. At that time users noticed they were now able to move their receiver far from their service address while maintaining service. But, no one knew if this was a permanent change, an accident, or something else.
The beginning of this week Elon Musk, Starlink’s CEO, tweeted singing the praises of Starlink for RVs, camping, and other activities away from urban areas. This certainly seemed like a good sign that Starlink wasn’t going to try and squash boaters and RVers from using the service in multiple locations.
Fast forward to Thursday morning and Starlink subscribers received the email I’ve captured above. Basically, we have our answer about Starlink’s approach to subscribers who move their dish. They’re fine with it, but they’re going to charge you for it. Lastly, their FAQ makes clear that users who are outside of their service cell will receive lower priority than subscribers in their home cell.
Because my receiver is many miles from the home address I used when I ordered my service, I also got the email above. It makes it clear that I have until June third to add portability or my service will stop working.
A careful reading of Starlink’s portability FAQ yields a few more details. First, Starlink says it works on same continent as your service. It also warns that only two months can be in another country. But, I’m not clear if that’s two consecutive months, two months in a twelve-month period or something else.
But, I think the most interesting part of the FAQ is the specific prohibition on in-motion use. I have a feeling some of that is probably regulatory CYA. But, it’s also consistent with what Starlink has said all along. If you use the dish in motion, you will void your warranty. It’s speculation, but, to me, this also points to a likely mobile dish and perhaps service offering.
Over the last week I’ve done some RV travel. My Starlink kit — early testing entry here — made the trip with me and proved very useful on multiple occasions. Our first stop found us in Timmonsville, SC with very little cellular service. As you can see in the screen capture above, I was getting a little over four megabits per second download speeds. That’s pretty slow and makes getting much done tough.
In about five minutes I was able to pull the dish out, set it a few feet from the RV and power up. It took less than two minutes for the dish to find service and start delivering much better service. I know my screen capture above only shows fifty something megabits per second down, but after the dish optimized position some more, I got well over 100 megabits per second.
I repeated this usage in two other locations and was very glad to have the option for higher speed connectivity. Each time it took just a few minutes to find service and bring the connection online.
I’m anxious to see what the future brings with truly mobile operation. It’s also possible that things may change as more users subscribe to the platform. But, in the meantime, I’m enjoying high speed connectivity anywhere I can find the sky.
Will this work on a boat at anchor moving around and rolling, or underway. Pitching and rolling…
Hi Rick, There are numerous posts to the Facebook “Starlink on Boats” testifying that it works fine at anchor and even underway in fairly boisterous conditions…
…but note in Ben Stein’s entry above that using it underway apparently voids the warranty.
Also, most everyone says that Starlink cuts out once they get 12 miles offshore. I believe that’s mostly a regulatory issue that can be solved, but also suspect that offshore use is a tiny market relative to Starlink’s goals.
I have struggled to find answers to these two questions. As globe trotting cruisers, we cross between countries on a weekly basis and continents every few months.
1. Can I move my service address from one country to another? With or without Portability
2. Can I move my service address from one continent to another?
As far as I can see, Starlink would prefer I buy a full kit and set up a new account for each continent I move through (throwing their very lively tech in the skip for no good reason) and want me to run on their RV package which guarantees a lower quality of service than those residential in a given cell.
Any expertise would be very welcome indeed as we are about to set off across the pacific and I would love to order in our kit before leaving North America.
Unfortunately with Starlink I don’t have access to a contact there who can help with these questions. But, here’s what I’ve gathered through my own experimenting and the wisdom (???) of others on many Starlink groups:
I think you’re right that SL would tell you that you need to buy a kit for each continent. My own speculation is that this isn’t because they’re hoping to sell more kits (it’s pretty well established they lose money on each kit) but rather because their internal processes are rather rigid and no yet particularly robust in handling edge cases. They seem to be good at starting service and stopping service but no so good at any kinds of transfers or other complexities.
The Dish Network is not happy about folks using Starlink underway:
Why are they trying to piss off the only non-Russian rocket company that has an available capacity between now and 2027 to launch additional medium-sized satellites (After Amazon bought up all the capacity last month, see linke below)? Is this Dish’s way of bargaining for a ride to space?