SpaceX’s Starlink RV service is an amazing product that enables full-time travelers to gain internet access in an ever-increasing number of truly remote places. This is the best tool for digital nomads to stay connected, thus allowing us to work from nearly anywhere in the lower 48, most of Canada, and Mexico. As the service grows it will quickly become the go-to for international nomads as well. While the product allows nomadic freedom to travel into the most remote areas of the globe, it does have a few challenges when it comes to the Starlink RV installation. SpaceX spent a lot of time creating an intelligent satellite constellation that is lightyears beyond anything that has come before. However, their designed installation for their RV service is less than stellar but we’ve figured out how to make it work for us and, hopefully, this info will help you.
Starlink RV Installation
- What is Starlink RV
- Starlink Protable vs. In Motion
- Mounting the Dish
- Storing Dishy
- Mounting the Router
- Starlink RV Electrical Wiring
- Wiring the Data Cable
What is Starlink RV
Starlink is a low-earth orbit satellite constellation operated by SpaceX. The company’s goal is to provide low latency, high-speed internet to every corner of the globe via thousands of micro-satellites. Starlink RV is the “roaming” version of their service which has a slightly higher cost to it when compared to their stationary service. We have written an entire article on Starlink RV. Check it out to get more details about what it is and what you can expect as a user.
Update: Starlink Portable vs. In-Motion Hardware
I originally released this post in September of 2022, and just over 1-month later Starlink released the Flat High-Performance Starlink Dish for In-Motion use. This alternative hardware seems to address some of the issues with installing and using the traditional Portable Starlink Dishy Mcflatface. The primary one is that it is designed for permanent installation and use on moving vehicles. This illuminates the need for setting up dishy at each new location. It also allows you to use Starlink while traveling down the road.
While we love the idea of not having to set up and take down dishy at each new location, we ultimately prefer the traditional Portable dish for two reasons. The first reason is that the inherent portable nature of the dish allows us to take it with us when we travel without our rig and the second is that it cost nearly $2,000 less than the new In-Motion Dishy. That being said the new In-Motion dishy fixes many of the issues we tackle in this post. It is definitely something to consider when choosing your Starlink setup.
Mounting the Dish
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Starlink RV installation is mounting Dishy Mcflatface (its official name). We will refer to it in this article as “Dishy” for short as most people do. Whereas many traditional satellite dishes can be permanently mounted to the roof and forgotten, the current model (Dishy 2, aka: Square Dishy) must be removed when traveling down the road. This means that you not only need a way of mounting the dish quickly but you also need a place to store it inside your rig.
Dishy comes with an x-mount that works fine for those who can easily place it on the ground away from their rig. However, the x-mount has a few drawbacks. First, you must get it far enough away from your RV so that it doesn’t block Dishy’s line of sight to the satellites overhead. In tight RV parks (which we don’t visit often), this will often be impossible. Secondly, this low perch allows trees and even bushes to block the line of sight. Thirdly, Dishy’s cable lies on the ground when using the x-mount allowing critters easy access to that tasty and expensive cable. For all these reasons it is best to find an alternative to the x-mount for your Starlink RV Installation.
Pole Mount Installation
For most large RVs the best way to quickly set up Dishy is with a telescoping pole mount that mounts to the ladder on the back of your rig. Most RVers go with the 20′ Harbor Freight flag pole. While SpaceX makes a flagpole mount it is a universal mount that fits a large selection of pipe diameters. As a result, the mount has some flex to it and can loosen over time as you constantly remove the dish between campsites. Instead, we recommend grabbing a 3D printed adapter from Etsy that is designed to slide into the end of the Harbor Freight flag pole creating a snug fit.
Pole Mount Consideration
One of the benefits of the 20′ telescoping pole mount is that it can get Dishy high above your rig and the surrounding landscape. This elevation can help to decrease the obstacles (trees and structures) that can potentially block Dishy’s signal. One thing to consider is if you have solar on your roof this lofty perch will inevitably cast shadows on your panels. When setting up Dishy with solar and without obstructions it is best to keep Dishy as close to your roof line as possible.
Our Alternative Pole Installation
For Jennifer and me, a 20′ Harbor Freight Pole Mount would have been overkill. Primarily because our rig is a small truck camper without a ladder to easily attach it to. We wanted a way to quickly mount Dishy without having to strap and unstrap a pole to the back of our rig. What we came up with is a sliding pole mount. It is a modified speaker tripod from Amazon. I removed the legs from the base and mounted the top “narrower section” to the leg mount bracket on the backside of our camper. This only required getting a few 3″ long bolts, spacers, washers, and neoprene nuts. It also required drilling an additional hole in the pole for mounting.
Once the “narrower section” is mounted to the rig, the “wider section” of the pipe can slide over it. It is locked in place with the speaker stand’s friction twist bolt. A safety pin can be inserted as well to add peace of mind that the pipe won’t slip.
Fitting the Speaker Stand with a 3D Printed Etsy Starlink Adapter
At first, I thought Dishy would easily slide inside the “wider section” because of its dimension. It does fit fairly well inside this piece but it isn’t snug enough. Unfortunately, no one has created a 3D printed adapter for this setup so I was forced to get creative. I ordered the 3D printed adapter from Etsy for the Harbor Freight flag pole hoping that I could somehow wedge it into the “wider section.” If I had a blow torch and a spanner I might have been able to stretch the pole enough to make it work but alas that is not something we can do while on the road full-time.
Instead, I bought a flexible 1-1/4″ PVC adapter (typically used for plumbing) which we used to clamp the 3D printed adapter and the “wider section” together. I shifted the worm clamps on the adapter towards the center to help better support the two pieces and keep the rubber from shifting. It is working remarkably well.
Using this Alternative Pole Mount Installation
So to clarify, when we set up at a campsite we insert the cable into Dishy and slide it into the 3D printed adapter which locks into place. That is permanently attached to the “wider section” of pipe which we then slide over the “narrower section” which is permanently attached to the truck camper. This Starlink RV installation allows us to quickly set up Dishy in a matter of seconds and conversely allows us to quickly pack it up on our way out.
The second issue is where to store Dishy in a Starklink RV Installation. This will vary greatly based on your rig. Square Dishy measures 20.25” long x 12” wide on the face. The pole that extends out of the dish makes the setup 8” deep when it is in “Stow” mode. The pole also extends beyond the dish’s edge by about half an inch making the overall length closer to 20.75 for storage purposes. The Starlink App has a “Stow” mode which tilts the dish so that the pole takes up the least amount of space. Hopefully, these dimensions will help you find a place in your rig that can easily accommodate Dishy. Keep in mind that you should allow some extra space for some kind of cushion so that you don’t scratch or damage the weatherproofing on the surface of the dish.
Our Dishy Storage
We easily repurposed a drawer that we used for our winter clothing. It sits right behind the driver’s seat in our F250. We added a thin layer of foam (scraps from a yoga mat) to the bottom of the drawer to protect Dishy’s surface. The dish fits so perfectly inside the drawer that it is astonishing that it wasn’t originally designed for it. Check out this article about how we initially built out this part of our rig.
Mounting the Router
The next challenge to your Starlink RV Installation is where and how to mount the wireless router. Starlink has brilliantly designed the router to not only broadcast the wireless signal but it also sends power to the dish. You need only plug it into a 110V power supply and then run the data cable (which carries the power) to the dish. More on how to do this below. The wireless router is fairly strong. Our truck camper is very small so placement wasn’t critical as we can pick up a signal 40′ – 50′ outside our rig. That being said for larger RVs you will get the best results by centralizing your router as much as possible.
All Those Angles
The real challenge to installing the Starlink router is the fact that it was designed to look cool sitting on a desk or countertop rather than with the ease of being strapped down inside a vehicle bumping along on a dirt road. The router roughly measures 10” x 7” x 2.5” but every side is angled and the base is uneven because this is where the power and data cables slide into place. There is no good way to mount this router in a moving vehicle.
Our Simple Solution
We are limited on space and wanted the router to be hidden away and not take up precious counter space or have yet another thing hanging off a cabinet. Our solution was to velcro it down laying on its side, wedged in against our batteries. We placed a strip of velcro along the side of the router and attached it to the floor. We added another strip of velcro over the entire unit, securing it in place. It isn’t sexy in any way but it is hidden inside our battery compartment so who cares.
Etsy Starlink Router Wall Mount
If you are looking to mount your Starlink router more visibly, I suggest checking out this wall hanger mount that an Etsy user created. It looks like it is well-designed to hang the router upside down and slightly away from the wall. A very clean-looking solution.
Starlink RV Electrical Wiring
The third part of a Starlink RV installation is powering the system which is done through the router. This may seem like a straightforward affair as you can simply plug in the provided cable to a 110V outlet. However, when you live in a truck camper and operate solely off of solar power you don’t want to waste a drop of energy. The router does not have an on-and-off switch so if we were to run it directly to an outlet any time we turned on our power inverter the router would boot up. This is not ideal as we don’t always need Starlink when we need 110V power. Starlink on average uses about 50W/hour of power which is not insignificant so we decided to install a switch to power the unit on and off.
Our Power Installation
We choose to replace the outlet near our electrical command center with this Leviton GFCI outlet with a power switch. Think of this as a light switch for the router. Any time we want to boot up Starlink we first power on our inverter and then flip this outlet switch to boot the Starlink system.
The outlet comes with wiring instructions but basically, you wire the outlet to the A/C side of your electrical system and then wire the switch as an interrupter off of the outlet side. From here you can either hardwire your router to the switch by splicing the Starlink-provided power wire or you can wire in an additional power outlet through the switch. We decided to wire in an additional outlet that is installed directly above the router. The switch controls the flow of power to this outlet allowing us to turn the router on and off. This allows us to easily unplug the router and take the Starlink setup with us should we decide to travel with it but without our truck.
Wiring the Data Cable
The last step of a Starlink RV installation is one of the most frustrating and unnerving challenges. It is to install the Starlink data cable. The 75′ cable (also available in a 150′ length) runs from the router to the dish and has two proprietary connectors on either end. One is specifically designed to slide into the base arm of the dish allowing for the cable to slide out at an angle so that it doesn’t interfere with the mount. The other end slides vertically into the base of the router. The beauty of this cable is that it not only carries the data to and from the dish but it also carries the power needed to power the dish in a process known as POE (Power Over Ethernet).
Installing the Router Internally
You can install the Starlink data cable (with POE) one of three ways. The first option is to install the router internally and drill a 3/4″ hole in the side of your RV. Once you run the cable through the hole you can then use a foam filler to patch the hole around the cable. You will need to make this hole in a place where you can then store your cable while your rig travels down the road. I would suggest a cargo hatch so that the cable can then be stored inside. This means the hatch itself will need an additional hole in it or you will have to leave the hatch open while using Starlink.
Installing the Router Externally
The second option is to install your router in an external location. The router is IP54-rated which means it is surprisingly water-resistant. It is still not recommended to be fully exposed to the sun but it can handle some moisture. (Although I wouldn’t mount it upside down in a wet environment). Mounting it externally allows for an easy cable run from the router to Dishy without having to pass through an external RV wall. Again this might be best done by installing the router inside a hatch and you will still need to have a hole in your hatch for the wire to pass through. Additionally, you would need to make sure the hatch has access to power for the router.
The Best Way to Wire Your Starlink RV Installation
The best way to wire your Starlink system is to install a waterproof side wall adapter. This way you can plug in and disconnect Dishy quickly and then easily store the cable inside your rig alongside the dish. While not an overly difficult endeavor this does take some gumption and a bit of DIY grit. The Starlink cable has proprietary connectors making it impossible to DIY a port that uses those but the cable itself is standard CAT 5. This allows you to splice into the cable and install waterproof CAT 5 connectors.
DIY Your Starlink Cable
Disclaimer: If you choose to do this DIY, you do so at your own risk. I place this information here as a resource but you take full responsibility for knowing the risks and challenges associated with this action. This most definitely voids any type of coverage Starlink provides and getting a replacement cable can be difficult given the high demand for their product.
In order to take on this custom DIY, you will need a shielded waterproof RJ45 connector. This one made by Anmbest is the one that we used. It not only allows us to easily unplug the cable on the outside of our truck camper but on the inside as well. This allows us to take Starlink with us when we travel without the truck by just adding a small shielded ethernet coupler to our pack. To complete the wiring, you will also need a shielded RJ45 connector (for the inside wiring) and I also used a strain relief boot. Additionally, you will need an ethernet crimping tool.
Cutting the Cable
The key to this DIY is to cut the 75′ cable in a place that allows it to reach the router with a little bit of play should you decide to adjust it slightly and still have the maximum length of cable for the outside wire running to Dishy. This will allow you to place Dishy as far away from your rig as possible should you park under or near some obstructions. For us, we cut our inside cable to 6′ after double and triple checking to make sure that we had the correct end of the cable chosen. Remember that the ends of the cable are proprietary and only fit in either the dish or the router. They are not interchangeable.
Installing the RJ45 (Ethernet) Connectors
Once the cable was cut, I used the RJ45 standard 568B wiring code for our connectors. The waterproof connector is very hard to slide onto the Starlink wire but that is part of what makes it waterproof.
If you have never wired an RJ45 connector, it can be extremely frustrating to align all 8 pins so that they slide into the connector properly. You also need to make sure that you don’t strip away too much wire as the connectors are designed to pinch down on the jacket of the cable. If you strip away too much you won’t produce a sturdy connector. Likewise, you need to make sure that the wires slide into the RJ45 connector so that the pins inside the connector properly splice into each of the 8 cables when crimping it down. Take your time and make sure you get it right. You also will need to attach the shield on both connectors as continuity in the shield is a requirement of the Starlink system.
Testing And Then Installing the Port
After wiring your new RJ45 connectors, you should test them by using the Anmbest port to connect the wires before installing them permanently. Once you have successfully tested the system, you will need only drill a 1″ diameter hole in the wall of your RV to install the waterproof Anmbest port. After completing the installation secure the internal wiring with zip ties and then attach the external wire to your Dishy. I added a velcro strap to the external wire to make it easier to store away when traveling between our campsites. This strap is also useful for hanging the excess cable from the camper so that it is out of reach to critters who like to nibble on wires.
Starlink RV Installation
SpaceX has created an amazing product that will ultimately benefit the world by connecting every corner of the globe. While the original portable dishy has limited options for installation and seemed like an afterthought for the initial Starlink RV offering, with the introduction of the In-Motion hardware it is clear that they are continually improving upon their system. With a bit of ingenuity when it comes to securing and wiring the portable Starlink system it easily becomes the most useful tool for digital nomads to stay connected while traveling across most of North America and many other parts of the globe.
2 Comments Add yours
Awesome! This is exactly what I’ve been concerned about. My only questions are how do I attach the shielding to both sides of the new RJ plug and is this method still ok as of 2/12/23?
Hi Donna, Sorry for the delay in response. My wife and I have been backpacking.
The connectors I have listed in the post are the ones we used and yes they still work. Simply make sure that the shielded cable (there is an exposed twisted cable inside the Starlink cable) is connected to the shielded frame within each connector. You can either wrap it around a tab on either side or solder it on. We just wrapped ours because I didn’t want to risk warping the frame on the connectors. It has been more than 8-months and no issues. I hope this helps.