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What Are the Best Ways To Get Portable Satellite Internet?

Starlink leads the pack with its portable Roam plans.

Satellite internet is unique in its near-total nationwide coverage. Even the most remote areas of the country can get coverage as long as you have a clear view of the sky. This makes it a natural fit with portable internet—you could literally take your connection anywhere you go.

Right now, the best (and only) way to get portable satellite internet is with Starlink Roam. For those who consider portable internet important, or at least somewhat intriguing, we’re going to take a look at where the technology is today and where you can expect it to go in the future.

Portable internet with Starlink Roam

Starlink for RVs is a recently launched portable satellite internet service. It is currently the only provider offering portable satellite internet. 

Starlink Roam plans

You can upgrade any Starlink plan to a portable Roam plan, but you should be aware that there are a lot of trade-offs in this switch. Roam plans give you portability, but they are more expensive, have lower speeds, and use Starlink’s mobile service plan, which has a lower data priority than standard residential plans.

PlanCost*SpeedPortabilityService planOrder online
Starlink Standard$120.00/mo.20–100MbpsFixed locationStandard dataView Plans
Priority 2TB$500.00/mo.150–500MbpsFixed locationStandard dataView Plans
Starlink for RVs$200.00/mo.5–50MbpsAnywhere in the worldMobile dataView Plans

Starlink has a three-tiered system of data service plans. At the top are priority and priority mobile plans, then the standard plan, and then mobile. So when there’s network congestion (which is an ongoing issue for Starlink), mobile plans are the first ones to slow down.

Customers with mobile plans have the option to purchase Mobile Priority Data in chunks starting at 50GB. This doesn’t increase their plan’s top speed, but it makes it more likely to see speeds closer to the top of their plan’s advertised speeds—even when there’s a lot of traffic on the network. Mobile Priority Data is also required for in-motion service.

In addition to purchasing priority data, using in-motion service requires the use of Starlink’s new, in-motion Flat High Performance equipment, which costs $2,500 up front. That’s a big investment, even compared to Starlink’s standard equipment that costs $599.

Although in-motion use is prohibitively expensive for most people, Starlink Roam is the only provider offering this service to residential customers, making it an invaluable service to those who need reliable internet on the road.

What is portable internet?

Portable internet is simply any internet plan that isn’t restricted to a single location, like a home or office. With wireless connections like satellite, this seems like a no-brainer. Since you don’t need a physical cable connecting your home to the internet, why not take wireless internet with you?

Are you looking for an internet plan with more flexibility? See everything available in your area by entering your zip code below.

Equipment and licenses

Portable home internet plans are notable because even if it’s wireless, home internet, by default, is not portable. It’s pretty obvious why many wireless internet services aren’t portable. You can’t just strap a huge antenna to your car and drive off. Some wireless connections, like fixed wireless, need a direct line of sight between the antenna on your home and the transmitter that connects you to the rest of the internet.

But even for connections where your equipment is small and your provider’s coverage is everywhere, you generally can’t connect anywhere other than your home address. Home internet providers manage their networks with the expectation that their customers stay put, so they don’t, for example, have to plan for situations where half their customers are suddenly trying to connect from the same beach over spring break.

There are also different Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations regarding mobile connections. For example, it took over a year of working with the FCC for Starlink to get a blanket authorization for Earth Stations in Motion in order to operate satellite terminals on moving vehicles, aircraft, or ships.

The benefits of portable internet

What sets a portable wireless connection apart from your standard wireless internet is that it allows you to use the same connection you use at home to connect to the internet in other locations. This means you can eschew hotel Wi-Fi during vacation and opt for your own fast and secure connection, similar to what you get at home.

Portable internet also gives you the freedom to go to places without reliable Wi-Fi without sacrificing your connection to the internet. It can be hard to leave the house when you’re waiting on an important meeting or don’t want to miss the next episode of your favorite podcast. With a portable internet connection, it’s just as easy to get online at a national park as it is in your home office.

Portable home internet also has several advantages over the mobile internet access you can get on your phone. In general, a portable internet connection gives you faster download speeds than your cell phone’s connection. In the case of mobile satellite internet, you can also connect in remote areas where cell phones don’t get coverage.

Portable vs. in-motion internet

Just because a service is portable, it doesn’t mean it works when you’re moving—like a mobile phone. Portable internet isn’t tied to a single location, true, but it still has to be in a stationary location to work. The idea is that you take your equipment with you and set it up in your hotel room or campsite; you don’t set it up in your car.

If you want a home internet connection you can also use on a road trip, you need a plan that supports in-motion use. This requires both specialized equipment and a specialized data plan. Unsurprisingly, this can be very expensive, so it’s not something we recommend to most people. For some people, however, this is one of the most exciting new developments in internet technology and well worth the cost.

Other types of portable internet

Portable satellite internet provides many unique benefits, but it’s still impractical for most people. Fortunately, there are many other options for portable internet other than satellite:

  • Phone hotspots
  • Mobile hotspots
  • Portable 4G routers

While your phone might make do in a pinch, many people use mobile hotspots or portable 4G routers when traveling to ensure a reliable internet connection on the go. These mobile options don’t provide the same level of coverage as satellite, but will give you a connection anywhere you can get a cellular signal.

Top portable internet providers

PlanCostSpeedConnectionOrder online
Starlink for RVs$200.00/mo.5–50MbpsLEO SatelliteView Plans
UbiFi$129.99/mo.Location dependent4G LTEView Plans
Ladybug Wireless$124.99/mo.Up to 60Mbps4G LTEView Plans

Looking for more internet options in your area? Enter your zip code below to see the top national and regional providers in your area.

The future of portable satellite internet

Starlink Roam is currently the only game in town, but competition might not be far off. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is another LEO satellite constellation project pursuing a similar strategy to Starlink. OneWeb already provides in-motion internet service to airlines, passenger railways, and other transportation companies.

Established geostationary orbit (GSO) satellite internet providers like HughesNet are also creating hybrid networks to compete with LEO satellite providers more directly. Although these networks don’t allow for portable connections, this could change if there’s enough demand for services like Starlink Roam.

The bottom line

Portable satellite internet is an amazing new development, and like many cutting-edge technologies, it’s an expensive investment—but it’s well worth the cost to certain groups of people. For the rest of us, there are similar solutions that use more established wireless tech and cost much less.

As more competition enters the LEO satellite market, we might see more practical options for portable satellite internet start to appear. For now, we recommend using other types of portable internet to stay connected.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.