Where we’re located in southeast Manitoba it seems like there are always people trying to figure out what the best internet provider is for their situation. We’re a pretty rural area, so it’s not always as simple as picking out one of the major fiber optic providers. (although things seem to be changing quickly, with both Swift High Speed and Valley Fiber bringing fiber optic services to all our little towns in the near future)
But until then and also for the truly rural users, Starlink has been a bit of a game-changer for many. Starlink is Elon Musk’s satellite internet service that is geared towards users in “rural or remote communities… where connectivity has been unreliable or completely unavailable.” They were in beta up until last month, and were advertising download speeds between 100Mbps and 200Mbps.
I signed up, received the hardware, and started using the service this past May. I’ve been using it while working in my home office for the past six months. Here’s my experience so far!
Hardware and Setup
One of my favourite features of this whole thing is how easy the setup is. When you sign up you buy the hardware outright, which consists of a satellite dish and stand, wireless router, and a 100-foot power-over-Ethernet cable to connect it all.
I just stuck the dish into the stand, plugged it into the router and plugged in the router. From there you use the Starlink app to pick a spot without any obstructions, and connect it. Mine sat on a tree stump beside the house initially. The dish automatically points itself wherever it needs. It’s literally just a few minutes from when you open the box.
Eventually I did buy a roof mount off their website for about $35 (USD) and mounted it on the roof. According to the app it was a better spot with less obstructions (like the side of the house), although I didn’t really notice a difference in uptime after moving it, it was more to just get it out of the way.
Speeds and Reliability
They advertise download speeds of 100-200Mbps and 20Mbps upload. That is about the range of speeds that I’ve gotten, although it seems to be in the 60-70Mbps for me fairly regularly. It’s certainly never gotten as low as our previous “high speed” service of 6Mbps. It is supposed to get faster as time goes on. In fact right now as I type this my speeds are 270Mbps down/14Mbps up.
As far as reliability, in the first month or so that we had it there were a couple lengthy outages. As it was in beta mode we were supposed to expect that. I think we had one major outage for a few hours one morning, and another I noticed for about 20 minutes. Shorter outages did happen periodically as time went on, but as of right now I can’t actually remember the last time that I noticed any downtime. It was probably in early summer during a thunderstorm…
Which brings me to how it holds up to the weather. We had an incredibly dry summer here, so it didn’t face many tests from rainstorms. There was the one aforementioned thunderstorm where it went down. But then our power went out shortly after for about 12 hours, so I can’t tell you how it held up past just a couple minutes. The dish stayed on the roof though, so my installation job there passed a tough test.
I am curious to find out if we’ll have any issues with heavy snow. We have had a bit of a blizzard in the last week and I didn’t notice any downtime then.
It was $800CAD to purchase all the hardware, including any taxes and shipping costs. And the monthly cost is $144CAD/month. The monthly fee is definitely not the cheapest out there. But when the other options involve putting up a tower for a few thousand dollars it was easier to justify the higher monthly cost to go along with the faster speeds we’d be getting.
Another nice thing is that after you buy the hardware you’re not locked into any contract. It’s just month-to-month, so you can even cancel the service for a few months at a time if you want to for any reason.
You are, however, locked into your location at this point as far as I know. That is supposed to change in the future (or maybe has and I haven’t heard yet). The idea being that you can bring it to your cottage, or even have it on an RV.
Overall, I have been quite happy with it. The speeds are so much better than what we’d gotten previously that I have a hard time complaining when they dip below what we’re supposed to expect. The jury is still out a bit on reliability as far as weather is concerned, but no real negatives there yet. Along with the incredibly easy setup, and simple use of the hardware, it’s worth the price for me.
Get back to us on social media if you have any experiences with this or other providers you want to share!