Starlink Internet Service Provider - Revolution or source of disappointment?

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The lifestyles of those who dwell ashore are changing... and of those at sea. Even on long passages, it is difficult to do without social media, videos and Face Time, all of which form part of our modern lives. On board, everyone is demanding more and more bandwidth to watch videos, but also to work. Satellite transmissions are evolving rapidly, as demonstrated by the new Starlink offer that has caused such a stir in the world of blue water cruising. For those staying closer inshore, it’s easy to get good bandwidth (via a dedicated antenna or a router) allowing you to send and receive pictures and even movies with a reasonable communications cost as long as there is an antenna not too far away on shore. But as soon as you sail offshore, and especially on longer passages, having a good connection becomes complicated, more expensive and typically, more cumbersome. Until recently, surfing the Internet was only possible with very expensive and complex satellite dome antenna systems. This might be consistent with very luxurious or ocean-racing vessels, but not with 40 to 45-foot cruising multihulls. More adapted to the latter category, satellite phones such as those from Inmarsat, Iridium, Globalstar or Thuraya offer mediocre speeds below 150 Kb/s (see inset “Understanding the numbers”) allowing for sending emails and receiving grib files, which is sufficient for security and basic communication, but does not allow for sending pictures and even less to upload or produce video. For example, a WhatsApp call requires 1 Mb every 10 seconds and surfing on Google or YouTube requires 11Mb/s. Five people connected to YouTube at the same time require a speed of 50 Mb/s. Until now, this kind of “domestic” use would have been unthinkable at sea. But that’s all changed with Starlink, which offers kits that allow you to connect via its network of low-altitude satellites launched by SpaceX (see table of Starlink offers). With an antenna, a router and an easy-to-install app, it is now possible to enjoy connections of 60 to 200 Mb/s depending on the package chosen and the location. A revolution for the boating world: without further ado, cruisers on their travels have been ordering, installing and using the Starlink connection - to their great satisfaction.

Testimonies promoting Starlink

Word of mouth and especially social media did the job... Cyril and Magalie Jagot, aboard their Catathai 40 Black Lion, have just transited the Panama Canal, on their way to the Pacific... before leaving the Atlantic, the couple installed the Starlink Recreational Vehicles kit antenna (now called ROAM), which was delivered to them in St. Martin. Costing €450, the kit arrived within a week and since being installed provides an unlimited connection for € 100/month. The W-Fi router sends the connection everywhere on board and even nearby in the tender. Experienced in the use of social media, Cyril and Magalie hosted a live conference off the Dominican Republic on YouTube from ...

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