TrackMe NZ have been using STARLINK satellite broadband units for the last 5 months.
We have two units, one is a the large 600mm Diameter Round unit which most people received as the first introduction to STARLINK and the second unit is the rectangular unit which, with the smaller form, allows for more portability.
TrackMe has deployed the larger unit by changing the registered address each time it was moved, this unit has been in Fiordland, Glenorchy, Mt Cook, Craigieburn, Whataroa, Marlborough Sounds, inland Kaikoura Ranges, as well as on a few very remote farms.
Each time it has taken about 5 mins to setup and connect before it was able to connect and transfer data at between 100 and 200 Mbs. This speed is good enough to watch SKY SPORT, NETFLIX and also hold a Teams Video meeting at the same time with very little buffering.
The new unit has the RV function where you can transport it anywhere in NZL and it will give you the best connection available. In areas of high use and demand that may mean you get 30-80 Mbs, in other areas you may get 140 Mbs. You pay a premium for this service but don't have to stipulate where you are going to setup.
How does it work?
The satellite unit receives a signal which has been beamed from a ground station within 800km, these are based in Invercargill, Cromwell, and Hinds (Ashburton). The signal is beamed to a low earth orbiting satellite which reflects the signal to your dish. The dish self adjusts to the satellite that has been tasked with reflecting to your dish. Depending on the angle required your dish can experience obstruction, so mounting it high and away from trees is best.
The Future for small STARLINK devices?
So when can we use this for smaller units? Well, given that it needs a big dish to capture the satellite signal, we don't see this technology making a big impact on inReach devices and turning Satellite phones into STARLINK Smart Phones. However the creation of Wi-Fi areas in the wilderness areas, or at huts and established bases, will be the next generation of connections. The ability to have an "always on" router at major huts where you can use your smart phone to keep in touch is not too far away.
Personal safety devices will still be needed but staying away from connected areas may be harder as more people get these options up and running.
Best use of the Technology now?
We see the future of Farming in remote areas being greatly improved with better communications and the ability to connect with their workers throughout the farm as the farmhouse becomes a connected unit or hub. LandSAR operational forward bases and major emergency comms will be greatly improved with these units, TrackMe have 2 units that can be rapidly deployed for an emergency.
Setup for a STARLINK about $1,200 one off cost, no special skills or tools needed
Monthly costs -(all services include unlimited internet)
- Residential $159/month with no ability to suspend
- Portability, for an extra $40/month you can move your residential unit around but you have to physically move the entire unit.
- RV - Recreational Vehicle $199/month but you can pause and resume service
- Vehicle mounted - Still in development and expected later this year or 2023
Overall the performance has been amazing, it has truely allowed us to be completely mobile in our office work. Whilst we have inReach devices for communication, the ability to setup camp and run off the inverter in the back of the Ranger or Camper has been great. We are firmly behind the further development of this technology to help us deliver safety into the adventure areas of NZL.
Tony - Chief Thinking Guy