Nomadic Internet Face Off Cellular vs Starlink

Jul 9, 2024

“Who do YOU use for mobile Internet?” It’s a common discussion among RVers and other nomadic folks who require reliable and affordable Internet service. Starlink, the innovative satellite-based internet service has had incredible growth over the past couple of years, taking advantage of the Cellular carriers transitioning from 4G to 5G. 5G isn’t even halfway to it’s technology pinnacle and is improving rapidly so now is the time for a “fair fight” comparison.

Cell-based internet

cellular based internetCell-based internet relies on existing cellular infrastructure to deliver internet connectivity. It leverages the vast network of cell towers and base stations already in place, providing coverage over large areas. This infrastructure is well-established and with 5G continually expanding, it’s a reliable and cost-effective solution for delivering high speed internet access to both urban and rural areas.

One of the key advantages of cell-based internet is its distributed architecture. As demand increases, cellular providers can easily upgrade their infrastructure to support higher data speeds and capacity. This scalability enables cell-based internet to keep pace with increasing demand, ensuring improved speeds & reliable connectivity for users.

Starlink

start link roam internetIn contrast, Starlink operates by deploying thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit to create a global network. While this approach has the potential to reach even the most remote locations, it faces several significant challenges. Building and launching satellites into space is an expensive endeavor and maintaining them requires ongoing investment.

This high cost is passed on to consumers, Users have seen several price increases the past couple of years and ironically, lower priority for roaming users who are now below Business & Residential (fixed) locations. Other challenges include latency, which is bad for video conferencing and gaming, but a big hurdle could appear, Regulatory restrictions. There are big concerns about tens of thousands of Starlink satellites interfering with other satellites and potentially becoming space junk.

How Cell-based Internet Works

Cell-based internet operates within existing regulatory frameworks, leveraging established infrastructure and protocols. This regulatory stability gives cellular providers a competitive advantage over emerging, proprietary technologies like Starlink, which must navigate complex legal and logistical challenges.

Additionally, cell-based internet offers greater flexibility and customization than satellite-based alternatives. Cellular networks can be tailored to meet the specific needs of different regions and populations, providing targeted solutions for urban, suburban, and rural areas. This flexibility enables cellular providers to adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences, further cementing their position as the preferred choice for internet connectivity.

Advantages and Disadvantages for Mobile Internet

Speaking from first-hand experience, there are advantages & disadvantages to both approaches. In wide-open, remote areas, Starlink has the edge when their coverage is available. It is the best Satellite service available today. A few of the challenges are the “umbilical” cable that connects the antenna. Starlink antennas require power to actively track the satellites. If you’re parked under trees or near obstructions, you only have ~300’ of cable (Starlink comes with a 75’ cable and you can purchase a pricey extension cable (about $100) to extend to over 300’) to get clear of obstructions. Remember, the antenna moves to stay connected so the whole path must be clear of obstacles. Another challenge, well-known by boon-dockers, is high power consumption of Starlink while in use. In a 24-hour period, Starlink will consume nearly 100% of a 100amp hour Lithium battery. Better plan on more solar panels & batteries to boon-dock with Starlink.

Cellular Internet has the advantage of nearly ubiquitous 4G and the acceleration of 5G technology. 5G speeds can already exceed the theoretical maximum speed of Starlink and they are going to get faster. Our experience has proven that adding a high-quality antenna to a cellular router greatly improves range and performance. One of the biggest advantages of cellular is it’s DESIGNED to be used while you’re on the move. Starlink recently offered it’s “Mobility” service that can be used while in-motion. This service requires a Flat panel antenna ($2,500) and a different service plan that ranges from $250 (50Gb) to $1,000 (1Tb) monthly. I can buy a lot of nice routers, great antennas and high-use data plans for that kind of money!

Why Choose Cell-based Internet

I could go on and on with techno-babble but here’s the bottom line. If you absolutely MUST be connected and have the budget, purchase both systems. That’s what I’d call a “belt & suspenders” approach- very unlikely that your pants will fall down, or that you will not have Internet. If you need to rely on one system, I’d choose cellular. Lots of big players in the USA, T-Mobile, AT&T and the largest cellular company in the world, Verizon. There are also hundreds of smaller, cellular companies which include US Cellular. Billions are being spent and now they are all competing for your business. In fact, prices for data plans are actually coming down and for some 5G data plans, they are offering very high use “unthrottled” plans. Don’t get me wrong, Starlink is innovative but, RVers like to park under shade in the summer….

Below are some quality cellular routers & data plans that we have tested & used- at very reasonable prices. Use our links and save some $$$.

Let us know if you’d like to hear more or suggest a topic-
Summer is nearly upon us! Safe travels to all…

Bryan and Cindy

Looking for a mobile Internet solution?

Freedom X3

FREEDOM X3

All 3 US Carriers Built-in
Nationwide LTE

Great for travelers, take on the road or use at home. Stream while using other devices. Auto selects best carrier. Can be paused when not in use.


$199 – Start Up
300Gb – $99 mo
Unlimited*– $129 Mo
14-day money back trial

SELECT FREEDOM X3 >

Cord Cutter

CORD CUTTER

Choose a Carrier
Nationwide 4/5G

Perfect for “Cutting the Cord”! Work, Stream or just Surf.
Choose which carrier you prefer.


$199 – Start Up
T-MO: 1Tb $119 mo.
Verizon: 1Tb- $119 mo.
ATT: 300Gb $139 mo.
14-day money back trial

SELECT CORD CUTTER >

big blue plan

BIG BLUE PLAN

Use your own ATT compatible device.

Speed- up to 50Mbps
300Gb Monthly
No contract


$39 –  sign up
$139 –  monthly

SELECT BIG BLUE PLAN >

Deep Red Plan

DEEP RED PLAN

Use your own Verizon compatible device.


VZ 5G plan
Speed- 5G
1Tb Monthly
No contract
$39 sign up
$139 monthly

VZ 4G plan
Speed- 25Mb
300Gb Monthly
No Contract
$39 sign up
$119 monthly

SELECT DEEP RED PLAN >

Fast Pink Plan

FAST PINK PLAN

Use your own T-Mobile compatible device.

$39 sign up
$119 monthly


Speed- 5G
300 Gb Monthly
No contract

SELECT FAST PINK PLAN >