The overarching promise of Starlink has always been to bring high-speed internet connectivity anywhere on this planet. Our oceans are no exception to that promise.
In this article, I’ll explain what Starlink Maritime is, which equipment is being used, how much it costs (also in comparison to other plans), and how it can be accessed by regular folks.
What Is Starlink Maritime?
Starlink Maritime is an internet service that enables you to receive high-speed internet while at sea, which was launched back in July 2022.
The service, also called Mobile Priority, is largely aimed at operators of vessels, oil rigs, and cruises, promising them download speeds of up to 220 Mbps.
However, the mileage may ultimately vary, and Starlink states that speeds can range from 40 Mbps to the promised 220 Mbps for downloads and 8 Mbps to 25 Mbps for uploads. Latency is similar at 20ms to 40ms.
Since February 14th, 2023, Starlink Maritime offers worldwide coverage, with usage in territorial waters being contingent on government approval.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Starlink authorization for in-motion services in the United States on a non-interference protected basis.
This means that Starlink has to accept interference from other services in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band and must not cause harmful interference to any authorized service in the band. As a result, connections while at sea may be interrupted.
Maritime also falls under Starlink’s Fair Use Policy, which was implemented in April 2023.
As such, subscribers will receive prioritized bandwidth during times of high network congestion.
Lastly, Starlink is not intended or registered for use as a Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) service at this time.
Interested customers can order Starlink Maritime here.
Starlink Maritime Hardware
Starlink for Maritime comes with at least one Flat High Performance Starlink dish to ensure redundancy and obstruction mitigation.
You can check out the detailed specifications of the Flat High Performance dish here. Both the Starlink dish and power supply are water jet and dust resistant while boasting a rating of IP56.
Meanwhile, the router should only be used indoors. It is dust and splash resistant with a rating of IP56 as well.
For best performance, Starlink dishes should be installed on the top deck area with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as on either side of the ship’s mast, to ensure an active connection even if part of the vessel is blocking the view of the satellites.
With that being said, the standard rectangular dish cannot be used while at sea as it technically isn’t allowed to be used while in motion.
Additionally, Maritime subscribers will also receive a Wedge Mount, which should help fixating the dishy.
Interestingly, Starlink Maritime customers need to install the hardware themselves since SpaceX does not provide installation services.
How Much Does Starlink Maritime Cost?
On April 18th, 2023, SpaceX announced price adjustments for its Maritime service, making it available to boats of all sizes as well as different types of customers.
Starlink now offers three different Maritime/Mobile Priority plans, which are shaped up as follows:
- $250 per month for 50 GB of priority access at sea
- $1,000 per month for 1 TB
- $5,000 per month for 5 TB
If you reach the cap, then service will be provided on a “Standard” data basis, which is the same prioritization Residential subscribers enjoy.
After you consumed the allotted Priority Data, you can still enjoy unlimited data on inland coverage (e.g., lakes, rivers) anywhere Starlink is licensed to operate.
And if deprioritized performance isn’t enough, then you can purchase additional priority data for $2 per GB.
Unfortunately, those subscribed to the 50 GB plan will not be able to access the internet (apart from being able to log into their Starlink account and purchase additional data) once they exceed their threshold.
They will continue to receive Standard data while at shore or on land, though.
Additionally, a one-time hardware fee of $2,500 is applied as well. Starlink dropped the price down from $10,000 to $5,000 back in January 2023 and then from $5,000 to $2,500 in March.
The $2,500 hardware fee are charged for one antenna, though. If subscribers need two, then the price essentially doubles for the hardware.
However, this isn’t necessarily that steep of a price to pay. Even Starlink’s cheapest competitor in the space is still more expensive. For example, Inmarsat VSAT costs up to $29,995 per month, with hardware costs that are even larger.
On top of that, they offer substantially slower speeds and worse latency. One Reddit user highlighted those stark differences, showing a competitor with less than 1 Mbps download while Starlink reached over 100 Mbps.
Also, keep in mind that Maritime (at least the 1 Tb and 5 TB plans, respectively) is aimed at large business customers and not your everyday joe.
These companies certainly don’t have a problem paying thousands of dollars every month, especially because they’re actually saving money.
Luckily, not all hope is lost if you’re a normie like me, which I’ll highlight in the last chapter.
Starlink Maritime vs. Business vs. Aviation
Here’s a tabular overview of how these services differ from each other:
|Customer||Cruise lines, oil rigs, vessels||Airlines, private jet operators||Stationary businesses and enterprises|
|Monthly Fee||$250 (50 GB)|
$1,000 (1 TB)
$5,000 (5 TB)
|$12,500 – $25,000||$250 (1 TB) |
$500 (2 TB)
$1,500 (6 TB)
|Download Speed||Up to 220 Mbps||Up to 220 Mbps||Up to 220 Mbps|
|Latency||15 ms – 50 ms||15 ms – 50 ms||15 ms – 50 ms|
|Cancellation Policy||Any time||Any time||Any time|
As you can see, the plans aren’t really different from each other in terms of performance.
The only thing that varies is pricing, which is logical given that Starlink helps its Aviation customers to install the hardware.
Starlink Maritime Customers
Starlink has already been able to sign up a few heavy hitters to its Maritime plan. The most notable one was also one of the earliest, namely the cruise operator Royal Caribbean.
Here’s the firm’s very cool setup onboard setup where a total of six dishes are mounted on the side of the cruise ship.
Its newest Celebrity Edge Series ships would be equipped with Starlink starting September 2022. Royal Caribbean isn’t the only one that made the switch, though.
Starlink also partners with resellers or integrators, such as Marlink, to extend the distribution and thus reach of its high-speed satellite internet service.
What If I’m Not a Business?
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. As I’ve written before, Starlink Maritime is aimed at on-sea usage and thus prohibits accessing it on land.
Conversely, Starlink’s other internet plans, such as Residential, RV (now Roam), or Business, are all meant to be accessed while on soil.
Interestingly, users in various groups, such as this one on Facebook, have reported that this isn’t necessarily the case.
In fact, they almost exclusively seem to be using Starlink’s Roam option, which is technically meant for people that travel in vans, RVs, and so forth.
Unfortunately, it appears that Starlink has reigned in on the party. In early May 2023, SpaceX sent out the following email to users:
Boaters are thus forced to switch to the new Mobile Priority plan, which costs $250 per month for 50GB while at sea (and unlimited data on land).
You can then purchase an additional gigabyte of Mobile Priority data for $2. Consequently, folks subscribed to Roam will now need to switch their plan.
Lastly, Starlink also recommends that users switch to the Flat High Performance dishy, which costs another $2,500, to allow for in-motion usage.