Starlink Is a Game Changer for Maritime Internet on Boats

Man using a tablet computer while sitting on the bow of a sailboat

Nowadays, you hardly have to sacrifice anything when living on board, and you have access to almost all the things you’re used to from life on land. Unfortunately, fast, reliable, and widely available Internet, which on top of that is reasonably affordable, is still a big challenge. Especially for people who want to do remote work from the boat, the question of Internet access is of great importance. However, we have good news, because Starlink satellite internet by SpaceX, which you may have heard about before, will be a true enrichment for us boaters. In the following, we’ll give you an overview of Starlink, discuss its current applications on board, and take a look at the future of maritime Internet.

Briefly Explained: What Is Starlink?

Starlink is operated by the U.S. space company SpaceX and is to date the most advanced provider of high-speed, low-latency broadband satellite Internet across the globe. Thanks to Starlink, even remote areas where previously no or insufficient Internet connection was available are to be supplied with fast Internet.

The Underlying Technology

The Starlink service is enabled by a huge satellite network in which the Starlink satellites orbit the earth at an altitude of around 550 kilometers (340 miles). In addition, the end user needs a terminal specially offered by Starlink, known as satellite dish, in order to receive Internet service. In the picture below you can see the Starlink terminal in use on a boat.

Besides, there are so-called Starlink gateways all over the globe, which connect the satellites in orbit with the core Starlink network/Internet. The initial satellites relied on direct communication with a gateway, which limited coverage, but for some time now the new satellites have been using laser links to communicate with each other. Thanks to these Optical Intersatellite Links (ISLs), effectively a space-based optical mesh network is established, which makes it possible to receive fast, reliable Internet even in very remote areas, such as offshore. The satellites can transmit the data via laser communication between each other until a satellite has a connection to a gateway.

In the following map you can see a map created by Reddit users on which the gateways are listed.

Also make sure to check out this impressive real-time Starlink map which shows satellites, coverage, and gateways.

The Different Starlink Plans and Our Recommendations

Currently, Starlink offers four different plans: Starlink Residential, Starlink Business, Starlink for RVs, and Starlink Maritime. How the different plans differ from each other regarding features, performance, hardware, and costs is not entirely straightforward and therefore we have prepared a comparison table for you, which we update regularly. To the table we also added information regarding the use of Starlink on boats, as well as recommendations for boaters to simplify the choice of the most suitable plan.

Open the above comparison table in Google Sheets (including the option to download the table).

Be Excited About the Future!

Although Starlink is still in its early stages and its use on boats is still limited, we believe it has disrupted the maritime internet industry. We have shown you that maritime usage is already working amazingly well, and the technical conditions are in place to soon exploit the full potential of Starlink, even far offshore.

Just as Elon Musk, who is behind Starlink, talks about a “future worth getting excited about”, we are excited to see what the future holds for the maritime internet. We are firmly convinced that very soon we will be able to access the Internet from our boat without any major restrictions, just as we are used to at home. This would open up completely new possibilities in terms of safety, entertainment and location-independent working. Soon nothing will stand in the way of living on board (in case we couldn’t convince you yet with these best reasons for a life as a liveaboard).

Have you already had experiences with Starlink on board? Or do you know something else about using Starlink on the water that we didn’t mention? Feel free to write it in the comments, we like to encourage mutual exchange here!

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