Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Starlink at the Lake of the Ozarks

Satellite Internet in a Box (the dish is about 18" in diameter)

March 24 Update:

After two weeks of testing, I will be sending "Dishy McFlatface" here back to Elon Musk. While the service works, my property is not conducive to reception with the 100 degree open sky requirement. Once fully operational and that drops down to more like 35 degrees I'd be fine. I thought about putting it on the dock where full sky could be had, but the lady of the house refuses to have a dish on the roof of the dock, no matter how temporary. That, plus the fact that my Plex media server didn't work well due to Starlink's use of something called a "double-NAT" (which I won't try to explain) made the decision to send it back easier. The truth is my Spectrum service is really good, really reliable, and enough bandwidth for two homes, so it's difficult to justify $99 a month just for a backup connection. When I lose Spectrum, it's rarely for long, and happens even more rarely.

Having said all that? If you're in rural Missouri suffering from DSL or Radiowire only connectivity, and have a clear sky view, then Starlink is probably a great solution for you. It just gets better and better daily now.  My best clocked speed was 200+Mbs. The worst... 1.8Mbs (virtually unusable).


I just got my Starlink equipment yesterday and thought I'd give a brief review for those considering using the new satellite internet service from SpaceX in the lake area. Spoiler alert: It works!...kinda.

For those that don't know anything about it, Starlink is an internet provider service that uses a small dish antenna to send and receive internet traffic via a fleet of micro-satellites -that will ultimately be -distributed all over the globe. The service is in it's early stages and not quite ready for prime time, but it will improve. It's a bold idea (Amazon is apparently working on a similar service with it's own fleet of satellites) and if it comes to full fruition, it will likely change the way many of us get internet service permanently.

BUT... for now, I cannot recommend it as a full replacement for a hard-line from the likes of Spectrum. The service is intermittent and speeds, when satellites are in range, drifts from 16Mbs to 125Mbs depending on time of day. This is to be expected at this point of the project, but will improve as more and more satellites come online. I'll be watching those SpaceX launches with a little more interest from now on.

The setup is super easy. Open the box. Put the dish on the stand. Power it up. Wait a few minutes. Spend two minutes setting up the wi-fi. Done. That's it.

It's my intention to use the service as a back up to my cable hard-line. Spectrum service in my area is rock solid, but things do happen now again, and with a vacation rental, a dead internet service makes for unhappy guests.

Right now I have a Plex media server on Starlink. This is a good test since streaming video is data intensive and involves sending a steady stream of data, not receiving it (so much). It works, but as I said at certain times of the day, it simply loses connectivity. As a back-up to your existing hard-line it may be an option for you if internet connectivity is critical, but you'll need real "techie" knowledge to get it to work auto-magically as a failover connection. Otherwise it just becomes a separate wi-fi to connect too. Good enough as a backup I think.

An open sky (100 degrees), with a bent toward the north, is a must for now. The Starlink app has a tool to help determine your chances of connecting but pay attention to the northern direction which at this point is the most important. If you get the system and find out it cannot connect, you can return it for a full refund in the 30 day window (keep that box!). I recommend you use the app before ordering if you live near trees. Again, as more satellites come on-line that field of view will get smaller, ultimately only needing about 30 degrees, which is a relatively small window into the sky (about two-hand widths held up above you).

I'll follow-up as time goes on. But if you're interested, the service is available for the area now. There are enough satellites in place to cover this latitude (about 38 degrees). Just go to www.starlink.com, put in your physical address and cross your fingers. If you are lucky enough to get on the list and order, it takes about 4-6 weeks to arrive and you will be charged the $699 up front. This is a one time purchase and can be returned for a full refund within 30 days. Any return after that is pro-rated up to two years. The cost of the service is $0 FOR NOW, but looks like it will be $99 once fully operational, which is comparable in price to a Spectrum cable hard-line at 400Mbs. Elon Musk has promised Starlink will be capable of 1Gbs (1000Mbs) once completed. For now, you must keep the dish at your home location, but *should* become portable for things like RVs when, again, the system becomes fully operational.