Being an RVer and working for RV LIFE can occasionally have some nice perks. A much-needed RV trip to a Corp of Engineers park in the middle of Texas recently bore that out, and proved to be a vacation saver as we were able to test out the oft-discussed Starlink internet system.
We recently took our big rig to the Sowell Creek COE Park, near Dublin, Texas, and quickly discovered that our Verizon Jetpack would not achieve any level of reasonable connectivity. Our AT&T coverage was fine for phone calls but unacceptable for two remote workers that rely on a good internet connection. Thank God (and Elon Musk) for Starlink.
A Bit of an Eye Opener
As per every camping trip, we don’t worry too much about TV. If cable is available, fine, otherwise a little OTA (Over the Air) background noise will suffice, or even nothing at all. In the evening there are always DVDs as a last resort if some movie time is needed. The Internet is another matter, however. Between campground Wi-Fi, AT&T, and Verizon…I can’t recall the last time internet, or lack thereof was a problem.
With that knowledge, we had no qualms about heading southwest a couple of hours from the DFW area to enjoy a much-needed four or five days on the lake in the RV. The only thing new that I had packed for this trip was a complete Starlink kit, on loan from another RV LIFE’er that happened to have one that wasn’t being used this week. Ironically, I acquiesced for the simple hope of learning a bit about Starlink, but never really expected to use it much. Little did I know that I would rely on it for the entirety of our trip.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a technical dissertation on how Starlink works, nor is it an encyclopedic rundown on all the pricing and options. For that, please see the several other articles that have been written about Starlink. Rather, this is a simple explanation of how incredibly easy and wildly functional Starlink proved to be. This was a “vacation”, more in word than in form, as both my wife and I had plenty of digital obligations to fulfill amidst the little bit of R&R we had planned.
Wanting to test this out in the simplest, rawest form available, I did not read any of the Starlink instructions. You can insert your ‘men don’t read directions jokes here’, but I really wanted to see how easy it was. I simply heeded the words of its owner as they passed it from the back of their car to mine.
“Just plug everything in. The receiver will wiggle around and finally point to the right place. Then just connect to the STARLINK Wi-Fi network…simple.”
I did just that. My campsite afforded plenty of unobstructed room for the Starlink Antenna, which I placed out in the open about 30 feet from our motorhome, at a lovely lakeside campsite. I plugged in the Wi-Fi unit into one of the A/C sockets in my RV’s basement, and set it outside under the slide, away from the sun and any potential rain. Note that the cable from the antenna plugs into the Wi-Fi unit with a water-proof cable that is plenty long.
At first, I wasn’t sure it was working. I didn’t see any noticeable flashing or anything on the Wi-Fi unit, however when I turned around and looked back at the antenna, it was moving around, trying to find those Starlink satellites in the sky.
Connect and Test
Once the antenna stopped moving, I grabbed my phone to connect to the network. The connection was quick and easy, as any regular Wi-Fi connection would be. At this point, I had not installed the Starlink app, and truth be told…had no reason to do so. I did do so a bit later, but first, I opened up the RV LIFE app. At the Home screen, my chosen campground was visible, as was the Speed Test function. I also used another speed test app I had, and later the speed test within the Starlink app I finally downloaded.
Over the course of the weekend, between the various loads we had with multiple laptops, phones, and even streaming TV, I saw download rates between 20-140mbps and upload rates between 5-30mbps. I also ran speed tests on the laptop using my favorite speed test site.
The best way to know something is working well is when you don’t notice it. It didn’t take long to forget how I was connecting, and open up the laptop and just work. I mentioned that the area seemed to be completely devoid of OTA television. With zero TV available, we did stream a bit, and here again, it was easy to lose yourself in the fact that it just seemed to work.
One afternoon as I was mulling over my good fortune of having the use of a Starlink internet system during this time, I pulled out my AT&T phone and Verizon Jetpack again, just to see if there was any change. Both devices and networks failed the data test…I simply could not get anything done. They both connected to the towers with a low signal but were completely unusable for work.
Throughout the five days of our trip, I rarely felt any slowdowns when using the Macbook I use for work. A couple of times, yes…but they were brief and infrequent. I don’t really do too much on my phone, but it was also connected. My wife used two laptops herself during this workcation. I never really noticed any issues or felt the pinch of crummy internet.
This short working vacation was a real eye-opener. Not only did Starlink prove its worth, but I also realized how terribly reliant we are on having data access. In all likelihood, we would have had to pack up and move elsewhere if we didn’t have access to Starlink for the week. The more off-grid our camping desires, the more Starlink will be a critical factor.