Starlink: The First Three Days

I’ve had some time to use Starlink, put it through its paces, and get to know it a bit better. Overall, I’m very impressed. Performance has actually been faster and more reliable than my friends’ WiFi that I wanted to have as a backup.

The Good

It’s been working perfectly for my work. All of the websites I need to use for my day job function just fine. Every Zoom call I’ve been on has worked perfectly. Other people on calls have frozen up occasionally on their home WiFi, but by their reports I haven’t frozen up on Starlink. I was also able to quickly research and write a freelance article about a topic I previously knew nothing about. Even the slow hotspot data I had a week ago would’ve slowed me down, which is partly why I didn’t get that project started until now.

The 13-minute, 2 GB video about Starlink took one hour to upload to YouTube. That’s faster than cellular, as well as some public WiFi I’ve used for uploads. Based on my experience so far, I’d definitely recommend Starlink to YouTubers. It solves the problems of both getting online in the first place as well as slow upload times all in one shot.

As far as non-work uses are concerned, I’ve streamed several hours of HD video at night, with only a few seconds of buffering in all that time. My download speed did drop from 100+ Mbps as I measured before to 5-10 Mbps at times during my evening viewing. The Starlink app told me it had gotten this slow because it was a peak usage time, and because I’m on Starlink for RV, which doesn’t guarantee as fast speeds as if I had a permanent address in a cell with availability.

However, even this reduced speed was still good enough for one device to stream HD video. It’s also right in line with Starlink’s claims for minimum service on the RV plan. It might not be enough for a family of five to stream five movies and play three online games all at the same time. But it’s enough for me, and likely enough to share with other people I camp with, like I did with FastNet in Quartzsite.

The Bad

Of course, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. I’ve run into some problems with my power inverter shutting down, which in turn shuts off Starlink. This appears to happen during the late morning and early afternoon, when I’m getting the maximum solar charging that I possibly can.

My theory is that when my charger goes into “boost” mode, it raises my voltage to around 14.4. This is supposed to be good for my AGM batteries. It also raises the voltage of my entire house electrical system, though, and I think my inverter is shutting itself down to protect itself from the higher voltage. I’ve run into a similar problem occasionally with my Maxxair fan, particularly when driving and charging off solar and the alternator at the same time. While not a big deal at that time, it’s definitely a big deal for Starlink to get shut down this way. Unlike some solar charge controllers I’ve seen, the charger I have doesn’t have a separate output specifically to the load, which would connect directly to my house fuse box. This would be a regulated 12-volt output that wouldn’t fluctuate the way power to my batteries does.

I’ve tried accessing my battery charger’s settings through the terrible Renogy app. It didn’t work at all for a while, but eventually I got in, and was able to select some customizable “User” settings instead of the pre-programmed “Sealed/AGM” settings. I dropped the boost voltage from 14.6 to 14.0. The charger didn’t seem to actually implement the changes, as the inverter shut down when I showed 14.4 volts on my battery monitor. This is pretty much what I expected from Renogy software at this point. The hardware is still good, but the software is junk.

As an interim solution, I’m running Starlink off my Jackery 240, which in turn is plugged into a 12-volt outlet. This acts as an extra filter, preventing the voltage from getting too high. It’s working, but it’s inefficient, and I don’t want to dedicate my Jackery to running Starlink. I’d like to find a better solution. One would be to install a small secondary electrical system in and on the trailer, specifically for Starlink as well as a backup to what’s in the van. That’ll cost some money and take some work, but it could happen. I wonder if there’s some other inverter than I’m using that would do a better job of handling higher voltages and not shut itself down. And if I want to get nerdy (because hey, this is me), maybe I could add some kind of voltage regulator to the outlet I’m running the inverter on to avoid the high voltage shutdown problem in the first place. The research continues.

Just to be clear, this is NOT a problem with Starlink itself. This is a problem with the equipment I’m using to supply power to the Starlink router, and only under boost conditions. At night, when my solar panels aren’t charging my batteries, I’ve been running it off my inverter with no issues whatsoever. And I typically won’t be charging off my engine’s alternator while using Starlink, because I won’t be using it while I’m driving.

The Ugly

There is none. I just wanted to complete these three headings.

The only ugly thing here is my motorcycle seat, which some cat has tromped all over. It wasn’t Lister this time. There’s no mud anywhere within his tether range where he could’ve gotten his paws this muddy.

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