Starlink's Portability mode lets you take your sat broadband dish anywhere*
* Terms and so many conditions apply
Starlink customers who've been itching to take their dish on the road can finally do so – for a price.
The Musk-owned satellite internet service provider quietly rolled out a feature this week called Portability which, for an additional $25 per month, will allow customers to take their service with them anywhere on the same continent – provided they can find a clear line-of-sight to the sky and the necessary power needed to keep the data flowing.
That doesn't mean potential Starlink customers sign up for service in an area without a wait list and take their satellite to a more congested area. Sneaky, but you won't get away with it. If Starlink detects a dish isn't at its home address, there's no guarantee of service if there's not enough bandwidth to go around, or there's another outage.
"Starlink prioritizes network resources for users at their registered service address. When you bring your Starlink to a new location, this prioritization may result in degraded service, particularly at times of peak usage or network congestion," states Starlink's support page.
In addition to Portability customers getting potentially degraded service, Starlink also said it doesn't work while customers are actually in motion (so no web surfing while driving), and attempting to do so is a warranty-voiding act. Starlink customers also can't use Portability internationally uninterrupted long-term, the support page makes clear: two months of operation in another country will result in Starlink requiring a change of service address.
While international restrictions on a continent-wide feature may not be an issue for US-based Starlink customers, it's unclear how the restriction will apply to European customers, if differently at all. We've reached out to SpaceX (Starlink's parent company) for comment and have yet to hear back.
Starlink said customers can find Portabilty in the Starlink app, and toggling it on will make it active immediately. Service isn't prorated and customers who activate Portability will be billed for a full month of service regardless of how many days (within one month) the service is active.
If there's one thing that comes to mind about Starlink Portability, it's whether paying $25 a month for the feature is necessary. That may not be the case, judging from freelance developer, blogger, and author Jeff Geerling's experience.
Geerling recently wrote a blog post about using Starlink for a few months, deciding he didn't want it in February, and trying to hand his service off to his cousin, who lives in a rural area in Missouri, USA, without reliable internet access. Starlink support told Geerling that transferring the service to someone else wasn't possible, so he kept paying for it while figuring out his next move.
Geerling told The Register he noticed people on Reddit talking about the Portability feature in March, and when his own dish received a firmware update a couple of weeks ago he decided to test it for himself.
"After my Dish firmware upgraded, I was able to see 'roaming: false' in my app, and so last Friday I drove around St Louis and verified that after moving a couple miles from my home/service address, it switched to 'roaming: true', and has been that way since," Geerling told The Register.
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With that, he took his Starlink dish to his cousin's farm on April 29, discovered it worked there as well, and left it. As of publishing, he told us, the dish is still in place and working. He hasn't activated Portability and he hasn't been charged. Based on screenshots he provided to The Register, Geering's Starlink account shows Portability as available, but not active. There are no warnings or notices of unauthorized roaming on the screens Geering shared.
However, as of Thursday, that appears to have changed.
"I've logged into my Starlink.com account, and I now see a note that reads Click "Manage Service Options" to add Portability. That screen leads to this Starlink Portability FAQ page with more details," he wrote. "I haven't signed up for it yet, and I'm waiting to see what happens next billing cycle … I still can't update the service address to my cousin's location."
Starlink recently announced a price hike, with deposit holders' fees jumping from $499 to $529, and new orders starting at $599. A monthly service fee increase from $99 to $110 is scheduled to take effect on May 9. ®