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February 08, 2021

Starlink Broadband Service - More on the Beta plus Exciting Video

Elon Musk likes robots.

Antenna Installation

If you have last generation satellite internet access, broadband from a wireless ISP (WISP), or even satellite television from DISH or DIRECTV, an installer came and carefully aimed a dish antenna for you. Starlink, a broadband access service from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, reimagines the install process and, in most cases, eliminates the need for an installer. The Starlink dish can sit on the ground or the peak of your roof; more importantly, it aims itself as you see in the accompanying video.

 

BTW, the dish is heated to melt snow or evaporate rain – that’s why mine has an icicle beard.

On reflection, not surprising that this dish does a robotic install; it talks to satellites launched by rockets which guide themselves to barge landings for reuse and it’s a cousin of the almost self-driving Tesla.

There is a kit for putting the dish on the ridgeline of your house which uses bricks to weigh down legs draped over the ridgeline. If you can get to the ridgeline of your house, you don’t have to make holes in the roof to put the dish there. Starlink has another kit for mounting the dish on a pole and a kit for sealing around a hole you may have to make in your house to get the combination power and data wire (power over ethernet) inside. I found a vent so didn’t have to do that.

WiFi setup

Starlink comes with a vanilla WiFi router. You can set the name of the network and password from a smartphone app, but you can’t do any sophisticated management of the router itself. If you do need more capability, you can plug whatever wireless router you have been using into the AUX port on the Starlink router, retain whatever management instructions you set up previously, and also continue to use any direct ethernet connections you made from your old router. I have a fairly sophisticated ORBI setup to reach the corners of my house but just had to plug the ORBI base router into the Starlink router and the base and satellite ORBI routers continued to function as usual.

Beta test update

Last week when I wrote about my beta experience, I was having about three outages an hour averaging about 16 seconds each. Not a surprise in what is advertised as the “Better Than Nothing” Beta; but, because of these interruptions, I wasn’t using Starlink for Zooming. However, since then Starlink has realigned existing satellites, launched 60 more, and I have moved my dish away from some obstruction. Now less than two interruptions an hour with an average duration of eleven seconds. This is as good as either the DSL service I get from Consolidated or my wireless ISP. According to the Starlink app, in the last twelve hours my view of a passing satellite was obstructed for two minutes, there were no satellites for my dish to see for 12 seconds, and downtime to make adjustments to the beta service totaled two minutes. I do plan to move the dish again; but, even if I don’t, Starlink is launching many more satellites which should make both the obstruction and no-satellite-available problems go away. Beta-induced outages should end with the end of the beta (summer?).

Starlink is working flawlessly as far as we can see for streaming. I am now using it for Zoom and Skype but the real test of that’ll be tomorrow when I have some business zooms.

See also:

Starlink Broadband Passes “Better Than Nothing” Beta Test

Is Starlink the Tesla of Broadband Access?

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