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Life, Tech and Unimportant Minutiae

Starlink - Month 1 - 7/17/2022

Created by Charles on 6/10/2022. Updated on 7/21/2022.

There is so much Starlink information online that it can be hard to discern the useful details... Most of this post is just a 'for fun personal story' - but if you considering a Starlink system and are here for info the tldr quick details I can offer are below, ymmv:

The long version:

In the summer of 2021 my wife and I moved to Vail, AZ - the property isn't tremendously remote, but it is much more rural than our homes in Central Tucson (where we lived for two decades). When we moved we tried to ask all the right questions - and had a friend who lived in the area to consult - but in retrospect, regardless of amount of time and research, I just don't think we would have ever understood the differences moving 45 minutes away would mean - Internet service is one of those slightly interesting details...

In the early 2010s we switched to using mobile hotspots for internet - at first because we had problems with a DSL connection, later because it just worked and it was great to travel with. For many years this was directly thru carriers like Verizon, for the two of us and our internet usage the data caps generally weren't a problem. But the addition of the NordicTrack iFit Treadmill (which essentially streams video while you workout) and COVID making our long time patronage of Casa Video less attractive data caps became a problem. Rather than switch to a wired connection in 2019 we tried an unlimited AT&T data plan thru OTR Mobile, great for awhile but we had problems as the company grew, and later from Unlimita Wireless.

Our Nighthawk MR1100 4G LTE Mobile Router and Unlimita Wireless Plan made it to our new house and sometimes worked better than it did in town (thanks, I think, to a hillside location with a great view). But with our new location things changed - we started working remotely more often (during the Covid shutdowns we were physically in the office - part of a radically slimmed down staff doing 'everything' in order to keep the business going) and with a longer commute, gas prices soaring and inflation cutting into our budget we started to think about a more remote future - more remote work? Remote education opportunities? Maybe other things ... ?

So in 2022 when the opportunity for Starlink Residential Service came up we said yes! Basically at our location Starlink seems like the only reasonable chance for any considerable improvement in our internet connection. We don't have any options for 'wired' internet - other options we looked at: Simply Bits, Rincon Wireless and HughesNet - I'm grateful to have all these choices at our location but considering connection quality, price, speed and data caps Starlink seems like the most interesting option atm.

The gen 2 system that we received has a dish (rectangular), mount, long cable and router. With a largely unobstructed view of the sky to the West/North/East our setup was pretty simple - put the dish on the mount, set it in the yard (eventually we used the Starlink Pipe Adapter to attach it to a mount on the roof), enlarged an existing hole from outside to inside the house and plugged it in. For us it 'Just Worked' and so far the app has reported speeds between 40-160 Mbps down (seems like 75 is typical) and 7-20 up (often on the lower side of that...). The downloads are much improved from our previous setup! The upload speed is basically the same, or sometimes a little slower than our hotspot setup. Too bad the uploads haven't improved, but for us it has not been a huge problem and for the most part the download speeds mean more for our current internet usage.

Probably the only install detail of note is that we had to enlarge an existing hole thru the wall (to 3/4") to accommodate the Starlink cable. The cable has custom connectors at either end (apparently ethernet with custom power - see Hacking the Rectangular Starlink Dishy Cable) that you aren't intended to detach. (Btw if you are passing the connector directly thru the wall (not thru a nice cable pass thru) consider taping the connector - the cable enters the connector near the mid point and if things go wrong and you need to pull the cable back the connector can catch and pivot into a shape that is quite like a wall anchor making getting it out of the wall frustrating...)

Now that the system is setup and running it seems like the biggest challenge was getting a dish/service - our timeline: email interest June 2020, deposit February 2021, changed address (different Starlink zone I believe) May 2022, subscription opportunity end of May 2022.

I'm excited that Starlink is working well for us so far - but have been concerned by my close by friend's report of issues. The investment in the equipment is admittedly a bit of a gamble, who knows if Starlink will be around in 5 years and if they are what the quality/price/details of their service will be...

2022 July Starlink Dish mounted on the former DirecTV Mount
Starlink gen 2 (rectangular) dish on a Starlink Pipe Adapter attached to a mount previously used by a DirecTV dish (on the ground). The mount that came with the system is in the lower right - while we tested the system we just sat it in the yard (secured with tent pegs and cinder blocks - it can be rather windy here). Charles Miles. 7/17/2022.

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