Starlink has been growing and expanding its coverage at lightning speed, but it is still quite new. The company is still working out kinks and battling political and legal attacks from the competition.
Its overall success still seems promising, but where do we stand now? This question is particularly pertinent for travelers who hope to use Starlink to keep them connected on their adventures.
It all comes down to Starlink Residential Portability, which I will cover in this article. I’ll explain what it is and try to help you determine if Starlink Resdiential Portability is worth it for your next road trip.
Starlink offers three main tiers of service: residential, residential with portability, and RV. Let me briefly summarize each, including the cost (at the time of this writing):
- Residential – at $110 a month for a fixed location. Many, many areas are already sold out, and no new users are being accepted.
- Residential + Portability – at $110 plus $25, totaling $135 a month. Your system is registered at a permanent address, but you enable portability, meaning you can take it with you and use it, even in over-subscribed areas. You pay month to month, even when not using portability.
- RV – at $135 a month. Like portability, you can use Starlink wherever you go. Users can stop and start service as they want. Residential users who enable portability can’t. If a residential user stops service, they have to apply all over again and find a permanent address that is not sold out.
*Warning: As I mentioned, Starlink is evolving incredibly fast. There’s been a big update, price hikes, and more within the past couple of weeks. So, double-check the Starlink website for the most up-to-date information.
Depending on how frequently you travel and how long your road trips are, it might be worth getting Starlink RV. If that seems like a plausible option for you, read Starlink RV vs. Residential Portability.
There are also service plans for remote businesses, maritime, and aviation.
For the sake of this article, however, I’m going to assume you only need an internet connection for an upcoming vacation or occasional road trip. So, let’s dig deeper into Residential + Portability…
Technically, Starlink Portability isn’t a separate internet plan. It’s an add-on feature you can activate on your Residential plan.
If you purchase the portability add-on, your residential dish becomes portable. That means you can pack it up and take it with you, like to a vacation home or on a road trip.
When used at your residential address, you’ll enjoy prioritized service and, thus, the best speeds.
However, when transported, Portability users are deprioritized. This deprioritization may result in degraded service, particularly during peak usage or network congestion.
Starlink explains its Portability Feature and Policy like this on its support page:
“Service is provided on a best effort basis when user is not at their registered service address. Stated speeds and uninterrupted use of services are not guaranteed. Starlink prioritizes network resources for users at their registered service address, as determined by our Fair Use Policy.”
Starlink Residential + Portability has one big advantage for travelers, especially over the RV option. That advantage is the prioritized service address.
When you’re not traveling, you get the fastest speeds at your residential address. That’s what you want where you spend the most time.
Despite its slower speeds, the portability add-on can still be well worth the cost. This is especially true if you have a vacation home you visit throughout the year. Or, if you take extended road trips, like traveling in an RV over the summer.
At $25, the add-on feature is quite reasonable. You’d have to determine if it’s reasonable enough depending on how much you’ll pack up your Starlink satellite, or “dishy” as SpaceX calls it.
There is another thing you need to consider beyond how often you will use it. That is how well it works in the service area you need compared to cell coverage.
5G networks and cellular hotspots have a big headstart on Starlink. They currently cover more area and have stronger service in many locations. That’s especially true in populated areas, whether it’s a small town or big city.
Currently (and let me note, this is changing quickly with how fast Starlink is expanding), cell service may still be your better option. Again, that’s because Portability users get deprioritized service. So, if you’re going to a location that has good cell coverage, you’re probably still better off using that.
What is the exception, then? When is Starlink Portability well worth it?…
Starlink Portability is worth it when you are traveling to more remote locations or places with unreliable cell service.
Some examples are if you’re traveling to national parks, into the mountains, or other remote, minimally populated areas.
Do keep in mind that “Dishy” isn’t a big fan of trees. If you’re using Starlink Portability in a forest, you’ll need to set up Dishy in a clearing or up high.
SpaceX launches more and more satellites into low earth orbit every month. So, satellite coverage is quickly expanding, and so is service availability.
You can see if your residential address is available on the interactive Starlink map.
NOTE! The map shows where SpaceX’s Starlink is available to order. It does NOT display where you can get satellite coverage.
However, if you’re trying to determine if your travel destination has good service, this map can serve as a rough guide. According to Starlink’s FAW, there is a correlation between where Starlink is available and where they have good coverage.
So, travelers can use the map to estimate how much internet access your Dishy will provide at different destinations.
Are you currently using this new travel tech?
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