If the price jump for SpaceX’s satellite internet service is making you wonder if there are any Starlink alternatives for RVers, you’re not alone. I feel the same way. Here’s what I discovered about the current state of mobile satellite internet service for RVers.
More and more RVers who love boondocking in remote areas without cellular broadband are turning to Starlink ROAM for RVers for their internet service needs. Provided by the Elon Musk company SpaceX, Starlink ROAM helps RVers get online when an area doesn’t have cellular broadband coverage.
SpaceX owns a constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites circling the globe. This technology is what gets RVers online with a portable satellite dish, router, and subscription. It differs from cellular broadband coverage because you don’t need a nearby cellular tower to connect to the internet.
Before Starlink for RVers, Expedition Communications (formerly Mobilsat) was the only provider of mobile satellite internet service for nomads. My own RV has an Expeditions Communications rooftop-mounted satellite internet dish, router, and service plan. My husband and I work online, and this system has been a lifesaver everywhere from Alaska to the Mexico border.
But my RV is currently for sale, and the satellite system will stay on it. I’ve been considering Starlink ROAM for RVers, because it’s a popular option for RVers like us who love remote boondocking. The ease of use, speeds and price of Starlink service has so far exceeded anything previously offered by mobile satellite internet companies.
Switching to a Starlink system is mighty tempting. But with more users jumping onto the system, slower connectivity speeds have followed. And a recent Starlink price jump to $150 a month is making users grumble.
One YouTuber in the RV community who has Starlink for internet connectivity recently told me she does not recommend Starlink ROAM. She’s not the only person I’ve encountered with negative feedback about Starlink for internet service.
As a result, I’m considering other options to get online while camping in remote areas. It got me wondering, as of April 2023, are there any alternatives to Starlink ROAM for RVers?
Starlink isn’t the only satellite internet provider for nomadic travelers. There is another satellite internet provider that’s less well-known. However, they happen to have the largest constellation of LEO satellites in the world that enable voice and data service to subscribers anywhere.
Iridium Satellite Internet is that satellite-based communications service. They offer voice and data satellite internet service for anyone who must be connected to the internet wherever they travel.
What is the Iridium GO! execTM?
Iridium offers the Iridium GO! exec portable wireless access device to help nomads get online. Small enough to stash into a backpack and weighing less than 3 pounds, the little box connects mobile devices to the internet, anywhere, guaranteed.
The Iridium GO! execTM might seem like a good alternative to Starlink ROAM for RVers. The company guarantees global access, as long as you have a clear view of the sky. Unfortunately, further research reveals three big downsides to the Iridium product and service.
- High cost. You’ll pay almost $1600 just for the device. Unlimited data is about $200 a month.
- Slow speeds. Patience is required, since it offers 22 Kbps (Up) / 88 (Down). Starlink users can get download speeds of up to 150 Mbps (but not always)
- What you can do online. This is the biggest downside to Iridium GO! exec. You won’t be building websites or designing artwork with the service. Only the most basic internet use is possible.
This is not a device for surfing on – but it can be a great global communication option for places where there are no other consumer affordable options. It can download weather updates, place calls, do basics online and most importantly – reach help.The Mobile Internet Resource Center
As Iridium’s sponsored article in Outside Magazine states, “There’s a big difference between staying connected (SMS, voice calling, basic upload/download speeds, etc.) and having the connectivity needed to keep a business running day to day.” Their Go! exec product is awesome, but it’s not for everyone, as you can see:
- Speed. Starlink can (but not always) give higher speeds. For example, Starlink users can get download speeds of up to 150 Mbps. Iridium users will see 128 Kbps max.
- Latency. Starlink has less latency (the time it takes for data to pass from one point on a network to another). Their latency is typically around 20-40 milliseconds. Iridium’s latency can be as great as 800 milliseconds.
- Coverage. Iridium Satellite Internet wins out here. It is the only company at this time to give truly global coverage. Their LEO constellation literally covers the entire planet. Starlink’s coverage is limited to certain areas of the world, as of 2023. That will change in time.
- Equipment. Starlink consists of a bulky satellite dish and a modem. Some users pay less for the manual dish setup, others pay significantly more for the RV rooftop-mounted dish. Iridium, on the other hand, only requires a satellite phone or a satellite data modem.
- Cost. The monthly fee for either service is about the same. Starlink’s monthly subscription fee is $150. Iridium’s monthly no-contract price is anywhere from $60 to $200 per month.
The GO! exec service is not for everyone. But it’s ideal for nomadic entrepreneurs who need to stay online for client calls, or sending and receiving reports, stats, and other business communications.
The Future of Mobile Satellite Internet for RVers
After comparing Starlink ROAM and Iridium Go! exec, I decided to hold off on subscribing to either provider. The mobile satellite internet industry is buzzing with excitement over soon-to-be-launched connectivity services coming later this year and in the next two years.
For instance, Project Kuiper is Amazon’s face off with Starlink and Iridium. Their satellite internet service is on track to activate before 2026. Pricing will be fiercely competitive with Starlink, too.
Other mobile satellite products for RVers are also coming soon, according to an industry insider I recently spoke with. Unfortunately she wasn’t allowed to give me specifics about services products, but simply advised me to be patient. “It’s coming soon!” she said. Very soon there will be a good alternative to Starlink ROAM for RVers.
In the meantime, I’ll stay connected with cellular broadband internet. It’s not perfect, but if I can’t get online when I’m boondocking, so be it. That’s a sign to get outside and enjoy an analog version of everything the full-time RVer lifestyle offer to nomads like us!