Starlink Satellite Internet
This post was first published less than 24 hours after setting up Starlink for the first time, at that stage I was really, really happy with it (and still am in case you are wondering) but it’s also only temporarily installed. As time goes on I will add bits and change things and I will come back and addend the post with the changes and upgrades we make along the way.
- Which Version should I get?
- Initial Setup
- My Thoughts
- Price Breakdown
- Changes to be made
- Update 1 – Dec 3, 2022 – installing cable through boat bung
- Update 2 – Dec 30, 2022 – Starlink Contact Details.
- Update 3 – Dec 30, 2022 – Obstructions..
- Update 4 – Jan 5, 2023 – Inverter installed and testing
- Update 5 – Jan 24, 2023 – Telescopic Pole and mount adaptor
It finally arrived! I think it travelled more than we did over the last month thanks to some issues with Australia Post, but it’s here now and time to set it up and see how it all works.
Lets do a really boring unboxing first. There was nothing removed prior to recording this – nothing had protective plastic coatings, no plastic bags, no cable ties, just dropped into the box, the box taped shut and sent!
Like I said, pretty boring!
Which Version should I get? (Back to Index)
Starlink currently have (as of 1st Jan 2023) 2 regular versions for Australian normal users, the Residential and the RV (Recreational Vehicle). Now by versions I should clarify, they are both identical hardware. The hardware as you would have seen in the unboxing above is just the Dish, the white Router and the Cat5E cable with proprietary plugs on the ends, that’s it.
Residential is locked to your address and gets priority downloads over the RV version and is currently $139 per month. If you wish to relocate the unit you can, you just jump into the Starlink app and enter your new address. In some locations where the service might be over subscribed you may not be able to save this new location yet and might have to turn on Portability (covered below). This has not been an issue yet in Australia (EDIT: As at 25th January 2023 parts of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast to Sunshine Coast are now on a wait list) but has been in the US. If you wish to go on the road with it you can simply activate Portability through the app and you will be charged the same as the RV version (currently $174 per month) and can now use it anywhere in Australia. When you return home to the registered address you simply turn off Portability. If you travel to a certain location for weeks or months at a time, you may be able to stay with Residential and simply update your location – there is no limit to how often you do that.
RV is able to be used anywhere in Australia (or the country you bought it if you happen to be reading this from a different country), is currently $174 per month and has a lower priority for the data. So when you rock up to a highly populated area like a city and there might be a lot of Starlink users in the area, they will get higher priority, so if the network becomes congested your speeds will suffer before the Residential version. The RV version is able to be ‘paused’, so if you only travel a few months of the year you can pause the service for $0 a month whilst you are not using it, then un-pause when you are ready to travel again. Since the RV is the same hardware, it is also 240v mains powered, so will require an inverter to run from your batteries when on the road – I cover what I have done in Update 4.
So which should you get? In hindsight as we are on the road full time and won’t need the pause option, I should have gotten the Residential version and turned on Portability if needed, or just updated the Residential Address since we tend to stay in one spot for a few weeks. The you also have the option to go back to Residential if you want. At this point you can not change the RV to Residential (though there was a hint that may be available in the future).
Other versions: There is a business version in Australia currently, a larger dish for better connection and faster speeds again, however very expensive! ($3,740 hardware purchase and $750 per month). Starlink Maritime and Aviation not currently available to order in Australia, but similarly priced.
Using whilst moving: The standard dishes have a motorised mounting pole to allow the dish to self rotate to face south and down 25° from horizontal for the best connectivity and to avoid as best as possible the fixed orbit satellites of other services. To use it when moving you can modify the dish by disabling the motors or removing the mounting pole and flat mounting etc, however Starlink do say in their terms that motion above 16kmh may cause the system to shut down (they have been trialing this in the US). Once the ‘in motion’ version is officially released here (think similar prices to the Business system), this may be activated in Australia so use whilst moving will be blocked anyway.
Hope that helps explain the different versions.
So how did I set it up? I simply sat the dish in the stand (the cable was already plugged into the dish), sat that on the roof of the caravan, sat the router on it’s side in the outside TV cabinet on the side of the van (only just fit), plugged in the power cable then turned it on.
Yep, that was it.
Oh, I did use a couple of short pieces of rope from the dish base to the rear view camera and awning mount just to be safe, you can’t tell in the photo but we had 40 to 60 kmh winds coming from the direction the dish is facing and I didn’t want my new dish flying away.. In hindsight, it probably would not have moved, it’s reasonably heavy and sits pretty good.
Once I turned it on, I walked to the back and started recording to see how long it would take. It was probably 10 seconds after hitting the power point switch, at the 45 second mark in the video the dish fires up.
I haven’t edited the video, that is recording from about 10 seconds after turning on the power point. After I stopped recording I immediately opened up the Wi-fi connections on my phone and there was a new network called Starlink (apparently it’s usually called Stinky to ensure you change it!)
I connected to the new network, opened the Starlink App (I had already downloaded that) and it prompted me to set a network (wireless) name and password. Did that, it rebooted then an estimated 2 minutes later I was on the Internet – that’s it, done!
This was the first speed test – dish was still pointing straight up, the first figures are phone to router, the second set are router to Internet.
This speed test is from my computer, a couple of hours later after the dish has settled to pointing south at around 25° down from horizontal and we are in Kalbarrie WA.
So would we recommend Starlink – well after our first day of using it, voice calls on the Vodafone handset through the Wi-Fi all day and clearest they have ever been, 2 computers all day, a Zoom meeting, watching streaming TV last night, ease of set up – yep, it just works. I would highly recommend it for an Internet service, this may not be for everyone of course, but for us it is justifiable – see the price break down below for my reasons there.
UPDATE: a month later, still extremely happy with it!
For us, we currently use Telstra mobile data for work while we travel, one phone on a Telstra $89 / 300 gig plan, a Hotspot on the same Telstra account on a $25 / 30gig plan ($113/m and 330gig data), an Optus mobile on a $55 plan plus a $49 phone repayment for total of $217 per month. We will cancel the hotspot (just did that a couple of hours ago), payout the last couple of months of one phone, change both phone numbers a to Boost Mobile $200 / 12 month prepaid plan that includes 160gig data each ($17 a month each and the data will be used when away from the van). That comes to $34/m plus Starlink $174/m total $208/m. So yes, the Starlink is not cheap at $174 a month, but our new monthly cost has actually dropped $9 a month!
But… and there is always a but.. we now have 100% of Australia covered for data and voice instead of 27% that Telstra offers, and, we can now stay out of town away from the ‘good’ mobile coverage areas in cheaper parks or even free camps, potentially saving $hundreds per week (parks are averaging $45 to $55 a night now for basic ones, fancy ones even more.)
Yes I will make some alterations as we go. I am looking at a way to easily have the cable exiting the TV cabinet so I can lock the door for security while using it and also looking at options for pole mounts to get the dish a little higher for clearing trees etc. The dish needs a 100° clear view from the angle its facing. Based on the angle its sitting on, that means it needs to see from the horizon straight out to just behind straight up and around the same either side.
Planned Mod 1. I have ordered a 45mm black nylon boat bung that’s waiting at the post office. That will get fitted in the cabinet door. I went that large as I usually have a power board hanging out the door as well to run the laptops. The router will get stepped to the door upside down for easy access to the cable to unplug for travel. (Finished – see Update 1 below)
Planned Mod 2. Awaiting delivery of a Giandel 200w (400w peak) inverter to run the whole thing. As there is no dedicated off the shelf 12v power option (yet, there may be something coming from after market, however since the current router is the power supply for the dish it would require cutting cables, fitting RJ45 plugs and probably a different router). I will fit this in the cabinet and wire it in via a switched Anderson plug so I can shut it off over night when running on battery. For those who want to know, Giandel have been around over 10 years, I have been using a 3000w (6000w peak) for over 2 years and works fantastic but draws too much in overheads to just run the Starlink.
Planned Mod 3. Deciding on a pole, but will probably end up with one from TelcoAntennas.
Update 1 (Dec 3, 2022): (Back to Index)
Finally got the boat bung in the post and fitted. Drilled out the cabinet door (outdoor TV bracket and power cabinet) and riveted the bung hole into place with some silicone for waterproofing (was surprised and a little annoyed to discover the door was actually fibreglass and not nylon like I thought!). Bought a second plug so I could drill out one to hold the cables in place and keep out bugs and water. Full plug used for travelling. The plug is a very large one, 45mm plug (50mm hole drilled) so that I could also fit the 240v power plug for a power board through the hole too (that’s the white cable) as we sit outside working and the power board is used for charging the laptops.
Router is double sided taped to the door (upside down so it’s easy to get to the disho cable) and high enough to allow a 200w inverter to sit at the bottom of the cabinet (though I had to remove it and reattach 20mm lower so I could remove the power and disho plugs! They jammed against the top lip of the door…). There is also a block of foam stuffed in to press against the front face of the router when travelling to stop it peeling off on bumpy roads.
UPDATE: I have since drilled 20mm holes in the sides (top and bottom) of the cabinet and one in the top middle to allow convection airflow from inside the van just to help regulate the temperature in the cabinet as the router runs quite hot (it actually is Water Resistant so has no airflow ventilation in the router – bizarre..). The top left hole has since been enlarged to 40mm to allow the power plug to pass through so it could be plugged in inside and turned on/off easily from inside the van.. This cabinet is boxed in on the inside of the van with power cable entry holes on the sides which allows the airflow.
Update 2: Starlink contact details (Back to Index)
Everyone states you can only contact them via a ticket, this is generally true, however I found this on another site!
The Starlink customer service team may be contacted any time:
- through the app in the Support section – find an item that is closest to your problem then click the thumbs down icon to create a ticket,
- or the customer portal by logging into your account on starlink.com (NOTE: You must be logged in, then the same process as with the app = find a topic closest to your issue and click the thumbs down icon),
- or via email at email@example.com,
- or by calling 1800 954 824
Update 3: Obstructions.. (Back to index)
Last site we were at we were in a beautiful caravan site, but surrounded by trees. Without a pole yet the highest I can get is on top of the van. The app reports we will have dropouts every 2 minutes, and the app showed dropouts of up to 30 seconds every 5 to 30 minutes. However, all was not as bad as it would seem. During that stay we had several phone calls over WiFi, several Zoom meetings and Google Meets meetings and not once did we have a drop out!
As the number of satellites in orbit increases (currently at about 2700), these dropouts from obstructions and the ‘No Satellites’ every now and then will decrease.
Update 4: Inverter power. (Back to index)
As mentioned, I ordered a small 200w (peak 400w) inverter from Giandel store on eBay for under $60, same brand as my main 3000w inverter. It finally arrived (mail to Western Australia is taking forever at the moment Along with some more cable I was needing to install some much needed power sockets. I used 8 gauge cable and wired in a 50amp resetting circuit breaker and a new earth post to start the cabling from. The 50amp breaker is connected to the input of the 200amp circuit breaker for the main inverter – a handy place to pick up a good solid positive connection. The Earth Post is connected back to the battery (which is really hard to get to) and fed with both cores of the twin core 8 gauge cable.
From there, I added a new Anderson connector on each side of the van, the main use will be for the air compressor to check the van tyres and to run the fridge when free camping (the original Anderson on the drivers side I required to go to the solar input so external panels could use the MPPT controller).
I then extended the cabling inside as well, giving me a full time socket and a switched socket tucked away under the front edge of one of the seats . The full time I will use for the fridge when travelling (or when stationary off grid and not wanting to set up completely) and the switched for the inverter for Starlink.
Testing. I ran up the Starlink system on the inverter with a power monitor connected and it peaked at about 147 watts whilst setting up (no motor movement though as it was already pointing the right direction, so would be closer to 200 initially), then settled to flicking between 35 to 65 watts (total, including the inverter draw). I let it settle for ten minutes, then reset and monitored it for 4 hours and divided the total current consumed by 4 for a 3.6 amps per hour average. During this time we were idle for about half and streaming Netflix for the other half. The inverter itself is rated at 0.5amps idle, testing showed an average of 0.35 amps / 4.4 watts.
Update 5: Pole mounting (Back to index)
Finally got hold of the pole I had wanted, a very sturdy 3 piece telescopic antenna pole from TelcoAntennas in Brisbane. By sturdy I mean not these 1.2mm wall pool scoop poles, its made of 3 x 1.8m sections, the bottom section is 50mm tube with a 4mm wall, mid section 40x3mm and top 32x3mm. TelcoAntennas are not comfortable with using it for the Starlink dish however due to the potential wind loading with a single mount at the bottom. They are making a new version with the lower and middle sections only that will be officially wind rated for the Starlink dish. However, mine will not be extended to full height unless absolutely necessary, its not just mounted from the very bottom only (using their towbar mount) and if used at higher settings+ it will be supported higher up for stability.
The pole itself uses poly pipe joiners, screwed on to the top of a section and compression fitting on the smaller section that slides inside it, allowing them to slide into each other and be quickly extended and locked at any length (they do have a read line etched around the sliding sections to indicate maximum extension). For the top to the dish attachment I grabbed the same make poly pipe joiner from Bunnings except instead of screw on its 32mm compression fitting both ends.
So this is what we start with from Bunnings, the Philmac 32mm Poly Pipe joiner at under $15:
This joiner is designed for a 32mm poly pipe, the end of the Starlink pole is 34mm. A quick attack with a file and a knife and its a perfect snug fit over the Starlink pole (it was a forced fit initially) and the bottom end is already perfect firm fit over the 32mm top telescopic pole section.
You can see here this first picture is looking inside the original with the 3 lugs that bite into the poly pipe normally. I sliced them off then sanded down flush (only had really rough sandpaper, a Dremel would have been much easier). Third and fourth pictures are the compression fitting, that was made so it would open larger in the fitting and also filed internally so it would slide easier over the 34mm Starlink. I also filed the main screw on nut so that it was a snug fit over the Starlink pole, it was really tight to start and would not have been possible to position it over the pole properly.
Net result looking into the fitting once reassembled, original on the left, modified on the right. Its a bit hard to tell but the black nut section has been filed out ever so slightly until its a nice snug fit rather than a forced super tight fit.
The pole itself as mentioned was from TelcoAntennas and is their Heavy Duty 5.7m telescopic, weighing in at about 7 kg. I have this currently mounted in a spare Jockey Wheel clamp on the draw bar, but I will be grabbing some 1m tie down straps to lash it to the rear bar and rear handles, or the top awning bracket etc to make it more versatile.
The first pic is the pole in place, second and top sections extended about half way each, so about 3.5m roughly and 2m short of full extension. The last pic is the joiner installed, locked quite tight onto the pole and the Starlink. As you can see, the Starlink is inserted as far as it can go into the joiner for as good a grip as any available mounts.