As someone who often travels to areas with limited or no internet service, I was excited when Starlink roaming became available.
Roaming officially became "portability" mode in May 2022 as a paid add-on feature with Starlink.
In this article, I describe my experience with the portability feature of Starlink and answer questions that will help you decide if it's the right option for you.
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What is Starlink Roaming/Portability Mode?
Starlink portability mode is a paid add-on feature that allows customers to temporarily use their Starlink internet at locations away from their service address (home) provided it's on the same continent. Starlink portability mode is available for Starlink residential and business customers.
|Starlink Plan||Monthly Fee||Portability Fee|
What was earlier available for free as "roaming" is now available as a paid add-on called "portability".
With the portability add-on, you can take your Starlink internet to remote locations where there are no other options for internet.
The fee for business users is quite steep with portability costing an astounding $500/month to enable.
You can pause it, but have to pay for the entire month.
How to Enable Starlink Portability/Roaming
If you are going to order your Starlink, they give you the option to enable roaming along with your order.
If you are an existing Starlink customer, follow these steps to enable portability.
- You can only enable portability from a browser and not through the Starlink app. Go to Starlink.com and log in to your account.
- Click on MY ACCOUNT and select MANAGE SERVICE OPTIONS.
- On this page, you'll see an option to ADD PORTABILITY >, click that.
- In the next pop-up, click on ADD PORTABILITY.
With that, your portability should be turned on.
Remember to not change your service address when turning on portability as it can lead to a host of issues.
The service address should be the same always.
There's also no guarantee that you'll get your original service address back if you change it.
Although you cannot turn on portability from the app, you can check if it's turned on using the Starlink app.
On your Starlink app go to Settings>Advanced>Debug Data.
On that page, scroll down and look for Roaming > true.
If it says true, your portability is on.
If you are planning to travel to a remote location, make sure to turn on portability before you leave your home address as you need access to the internet to turn on portability.
Is it Worth Paying for Starlink Portability?
Starlink portability is ideal for users who travel occasionally to remote locations (without fiber internet) and need satellite internet at those locations.
As someone who travels to remote locations in neighboring states, I'm a perfect candidate for Starlink portability.
Make sure you check the Starlink availability map to see if the locations that you intend to travel to are "high capacity" or "low capacity".
High capacity means you'll get fast internet with low latency while low capacity indicates lower speeds and high latency during peak hours.
Several southern and midwest states are currently in the low-capacity category.
Starlink portability has worked really well for me, and I have not had to turn on my AT&T cellular data plan on the move.
My cellular plan charges an initiation fee every time I turn it on and I've been able to save a considerable amount of money (~$100) by switching to Starlink portability.
There are some drawbacks as well to Starlink portability which you need to be aware of.
When you travel to a location away from your service address (home), you get a lower priority compared to the stationary users, i.e. residential and business users.
This means during peak hours you might experience slower speeds and higher pings than the rest of the day.
Peak hours are typically 6 PM to 11 PM in most places in the USA with weekends being the busiest.
How bad is it going to be during peak hours?
This is highly dependent on the existing Starlink density in your location of interest.
If it's crowded with Starlink users, peak hours can be bad.
The biggest issue most users report is in the reliability of the network (ping) than pure download/upload speeds.
The worst casualty in such a scenario are gamers and people who do video conferencing as they need a low ping (latency) for smooth functioning.
Expect pings upwards of 100 during peak hours which can make it impossible to play online games or do video calls using Starlink.
Service during peak hours will be worse if you are in a low-capacity area according to the Starlink coverage map.
Check if Starlink is immediately available in your area or whether there's a waitlist.
Areas on the waitlist are the low-capacity areas for Starlink.
Personally, I've never had to face congestion issues any time during the day with Starlink portability, but that could just be pure luck.
Note that portability users are just deprioritized and there are no data caps or throttling of any kind for them in the USA.
No Pro Rata Billing Option
You'll be charged for Starlink portability in full monthly increments and not on a pro-rata basis.
This means if you turn on portability one week into your billing cycle, you'll be charged for the entire month and not for the days remaining in the billing cycle.
Similarly, if you turn off portability, they'll stop charging you only from the next billing cycle.
Your billing cycle starts 14 days after your dish is shipped by Starlink.
This means even if you need portability only for 2-3 days in a month, you'll be charged for an entire month (billing cycle).
No In-motion Use
Starlink policy does not allow you to run your dish in a moving vehicle (such as an RV).
You can travel to a location, stop your vehicle, mount your dish using accessories, and use Starlink, but not while the vehicle is in motion.
If that's one of your intended requirements, you might want to wait for a while.
On July 1st, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permitted Starlink to provide in-motion internet using Earth Station in Motion (ESIM) terminals.
But Starlink cannot do this with their current style of dishes and needs to bring out a new device for that.
So wait until Starlink starts selling those new dishes if in-motion use is a high priority to you.
For those feeling adventurous, you can actually modify your existing Starlink dish to make it work on a running vehicle, but it might void your warranty.
Several users have been successful in disabling the motors on the round Starlink dish (Gen 1) and laying it flat for in-motion use.
My recommendation is not to try this, especially with the rectangular dish, and instead, wait for Starlink to officially bring a solution for this.
It's Meant to be Temporary
Starlink says that portability is to be used as a temporary feature and you're expected to go back to your service address (home) after a while.
According to Starlink's terms of service, if you stay at a secondary location (away from your registered address) for more than two billing cycles Starlink can change your registered address to this new secondary location.
So make sure to limit your Starlink portability usage to two billing cycles or less to avoid running into problems.
If your service address gets updated by Starlink, you'll only get deprioritized service at your primary address.
Starlink Portability vs Starlink RV
The first question that came to mind when Starlink RV was launched (May 25th, 2022) was how was it different from Starlink Portability.
|Feature||Starlink Residential+Portability||Starlink RV|
|Speed||Priority at Home (Service Address)||Second priority everywhere|
|Pausing||Can pause only portability fee||Can be fully paused|
|Waitlist||Waitlists exist||No Waitlist|
As you can see from the table, the total monthly fee of Starlink residential with portability and Starlink RV are the same.
There are only two important differences between the two options.
The first is that you get priority service with Starlink residential + portability when you're at your service address (home).
Starlink RV does not have a service address (home), you're always lower in priority compared to the users with their service address as your current location.
The second is that Starlink RV can be paused. If you're someone who takes your RV out only in the summer, you can buy the dish and activate it only in the summer months.
You cannot pause Starlink residential. But you can pause the portability feature though saving you some money.
With Starlink residential, you can only cancel your service and if you try to reactivate later, you will simply be put at the end of the waitlist for your area.
If you're someone who only needs Starlink occasionally and only when you travel away from home, Starlink RV might be a better option.
The last advantage to Starlink RV is that currently there are no long waitlists for it.
You can get it immediately if you order it and this is a common strategy used for skipping the Starlink waitlist.
How to Power and Mount Starlink When Travelling
Powering your Starlink in your Car/Van
To power your Starlink you need a power source with an AC signal.
The most obvious solution is to use a power outlet if there are any available at your location.
But that's almost never the case and a more flexible option is a portable power source.
So how much power do you need and what power source should you buy?
|Scenario||Average Power Drawn|
|Power during Boot||~100 W|
|Power during normal operation||~50 W|
Note that this is the average power consumption I observed when using my Starlink residential (+portability) dish.
The overall average power consumption can be averaged to around ~60W including all the internal losses.
I was streaming 4k continuously and calculated this as the power consumed.
|Hours of Operation Needed||Power Capacity Needed|
|5 hours||~300 Wh|
|16 hours||~1,000 Wh|
For 5 hours of operation, I recommend EnginStar 300 W Portable Power Station.
For 16 hours of operation, Jackery 1000W portable power station is a good choice.
Tip: Turn off "snow melt configuration" in settings to save the power used for heating the antenna.
For those who need continuous power, a solar panel and power station combo might be a better option.
The 300W Enginstar power station also comes bundled with solar panels-EnginStar 300 W Portable Power Station with Solar Panels.
The 1000W Jackery power station has a solar-powered option as well- Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Power Station.
If you get sunlight for at least 7 hours a day, a solar panel plus power station combo is almost a set-and-forget thing.
Note that these calculations only consider the power consumption of Starlink, and if you have other power requirements, adjust the numbers accordingly.
Also, make sure to use a pure sine wave power station like the ones I recommended as that makes a difference.
Mounting your Starlink in your Car/Van
If you have a ladder at the back of your vehicle, this pole mount is the best choice I've seen so far-Aluminum Starlink Dish Telescoping Pole Mount.
Since this pole mount is telescopic, you can raise it when running your Starlink.
You can lower it down when you wish to move your vehicle, making it safe from tree branches.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can you relocate your Starlink?
You can relocate your Starlink in two ways. If your relocation requirement is temporary, opt for Starlink portability and use it at the new location. If you want to permanently relocate, change your service address. But you might not be able to get your old service address again. You cannot relocate to another continent with your Starlink.
Can you watch Netflix on Starlink?
You can watch Netflix on Starlink even in 4k quality. For 4k streaming, the recommended bandwidth is 25 Mbps, and Starlink download speeds are generally well above that.