Elon Musk’s Starlink stands out as one of the most innovative and promising technologies to be launched in some time. It makes high-speed global Internet connectivity a reality, even in the most remote and underdeveloped regions of the world. Today, we assist with the installation of Starlink systems on board ships, and receive questions from our customers about the integration of Starlink with Digital Yacht’s internet systems.
Starlink uses a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites launched by SpaceX, enabling a Starlink system to benefit from worldwide Internet connectivity. These systems offer download speeds ranging from 50Mbps to 220Mbps, and upload speeds from 5Mbps to 20Mbps. These performances are comparable to 5G and are available worldwide, depending on regional demand.
For many users, these are breathtaking speeds, more than meeting their needs, whether working on board, watching TV or playing the latest video games. However, to determine whether Starlink is the right solution for you, it’s essential to dive into the details of the various service options available to boaters.
Of course, Starlink offers top-of-the-range packages at rates of up to £1000 or even £5000 per month, aimed at superyachts and commercial vessels. However, for most of us, two services in particular stand out: the Roam service and the Boat service.
Starlink Roam service
The Roam service is primarily designed for recreational vehicles, but can also be used on boats if you accept the limitation of inland use (marinas, rivers, canals, etc.). Using a standard antenna (which must be stationary and correctly aligned), this service allows you to use it at different locations in your local area.
Data speeds are capped at 5-50 Mbps, the cost of the standard antenna system is £450 (November 2023) and the monthly usage fee is a minimum of £100. Below is a table comparing the Roam service with a 4G/5G system…
Starlink High Performance with Mobile Priority
The new entry-level Mobile Priority package (50GB) is designed for use with the High Performance Flat Antenna, which uses sophisticated phased-array technology to track satellites without the need to physically move the antenna. This service keeps you connected at sea and on the move, with the only limitation being a 50GB data cap per month.
Additional data can be purchased if required. The high-performance flat antenna system is priced at £2,867 (November 2023 price), with a monthly usage fee of £287/month.
Starlink boat service
In addition to the Roam service, Starlink also offers a Boat service. With the Boat service, Starlink can be used anywhere, even on the high seas.
Below is a table comparing the Boat service and a 4G/5G booster…
For many users, the costs and energy consumption of Starlink will rule them out of this solution, and our 4G/5G products will represent a more advantageous option. However, for users who are happy with Starlink’s costs and energy consumption, combining the Starlink antenna with a Digital Yacht 4G/5G router gives the best of both worlds, using 4G/5G as a back-up and avoiding the risk of bad weather interrupting the Starlink Internet connection.
Integrating Starlink for boats with our 4G/5G Xtream booster
The Starlink wireless router for boats is perfectly suited to general use, but lacks the features and functionality offered by our 4GXtream routers and the brand-new 5GXtream router. On board a modern ship, you’ll often find numerous devices equipped with Ethernet connections. The Starlink router has no wired connections, while our 4GXtream has 4 wired connections and our 5GXtream has 5 wired connections (all operating at 1Gbit).
What’s more, the Digital Yacht 4G/5GXtream routers feature a sophisticated web interface offering a host of network functionalities, such as VPN, VLAN, remote access, GPS tracking and more. Finally, the 4G/5G Xtream router has an NMEA 2000 interface, enabling navigation data to be broadcast over the same WiFi network.
Replacing the Starlink router with Digital Yacht’s 4G/5GXtream, to create a Starlink + Digital Yacht “hybrid” system, results in an extremely powerful IT solution that can be easily configured and controlled via Digital Yacht’s web interface.
Connecting a Starlink boat antenna to one of our 4G/5G routers is very simple, and the only additional accessory you’ll need is a StarLink Ethernet Adaptor.
Then, using a standard network cable, connect the Ethernet adapter to the WAN socket of your 4G/5GXtream, as shown in the connection diagram below…
Once everything is plugged in, connect to the 4G/5G Xtream’s WiFi, then access its web interface. Now configure the wired WAN connection as the highest-priority WAN connection. You can also use the 4G/5GXtream’s Failover function to switch automatically to the mobile connection (4G/5G) when Starlink is not connected to the Internet.
Last but not least, you need to activate Bypass mode in Starlink :
Open up the Starlink app
Scroll down and tap Bypass Mode
Slide the toggle to the right
When prompted, confirm you want to continue by tapping OK
At this point, you can disconnect the Starlink router, as it is no longer required.
Even though the Starlink router is now in bypass mode, you can still access most of the dish settings from the Starlink app or web interface. To do this, you need to use a device connected to your 4G/5GXtream. If you’re not familiar with the web interface, you can access it from a web browser:
Starlink will have a considerable impact on the quality and speed of the Internet connectivity boat. However, it’s important to recognize that this is a product designed for consumer use, and adapting it for efficient and reliable operation on pleasure boats and commercial vessels can pose challenges.
By combining Starlink for Boat with a Digital Yacht 4G/5GXtream router, you’ll benefit from a more powerful and functional network, with mobile Internet backup to guarantee you an Internet connection in all circumstances, plus all your NMEA navigation data.