Starlink’s Updated Plans and Service Prioritization: Significant Impact on Mobile Users

Key Points:

  • SpaceX has made significant changes to Starlink plans and terms of service.
  • Starlink offers four primary plans, two for fixed locations and two for mobility. However, only the most expensive plan allows usage while in motion or over oceanic areas.
  • Starlink now has three network priority levels that prioritize network access based on data limits and user location.
  • Users can switch between plans and buy extra higher priority data within certain limitations.
  • Starlink has updated its Terms of Service and Fair Use Policy to reflect these changes.

 

SpaceX simplified its Starlink plans by reducing the range of offerings to four primary plans with three network priority levels. However, the updated plans have new terms and restrictions that may result in higher costs for users who utilize Starlink while in motion or on water. The changes include renaming some plans and introducing new limits. It’s crucial to understand the new options, especially for nomadic users, who can now switch between plans and purchase extra priority data. With so much to cover, let’s explore the updates in more detail.

 

Starlink’s New Plans

Starlink has updated its plan offerings, which now include four options: two for fixed location installations and two for on-the-go usage. Here are the details:

  • Standard: Replaces Starlink Residential.
  • Priority: Replaces Starlink Business.
  • Mobile: Replaces Starlink Roam, which recently replaced Starlink RV. It supports portability but not full-time in-motion usage.
  • Mobile Priority: Replaces in-motion usage of Starlink Roam and Starlink Maritime. 

The fixed location plans are billed monthly, while the mobile plans can pause billing (but only in full-month increments) when not needed. Additionally, Starlink now has three tiers of network priority that predict expected performance, especially during peak hours and in congested areas. These priority levels include:

  • Best Effort/Mobile: Unlimited data but always at a lower priority than other plans. Download speed ranges from 5-50 Mbps, and upload speed ranges from 2-10 Mbps.
  • Standard: Unlimited data with download speeds ranging from 25-100 Mbps and upload speeds ranging from 5-10 Mbps.
  • Priority/Mobile Priority: Priority usage is capped based on the particular service plan, but additional priority data can be purchased. Download speed ranges from 40-220 Mbps, and upload speed ranges from 8-25 Mbps. Additionally, Starlink offers three receiver options, including the Standard ($599, stalk-mounted, not officially usable in motion), High Performance ($2,500, stalk-mounted, not officially usable in motion), and Flat High Performance ($2,500, flat-mounted, officially usable in motion).

 

SpaceX posted a manual comparing the plans:

One can find the details a bit tough.

So let’s dive in even more profound.

Starlink Standard Plan

Starlink Standard customers are now receiving emails notifying them that they will no longer be subject to deprioritization after reaching 1TB of usage. 

This plan, which was formerly known as Starlink Residential, remains mostly the same and is the most affordable option intended for fixed location usage. However, it has a major limitation – users can only connect from their registered service address, and Starlink is able to detect even small moves, resulting in service interruptions. 

While customers can manually change their address as needed while traveling, they are only able to do so in areas where Starlink has available capacity and is not waitlisted for new signups. 

Moreover, changing the address away from the home location could result in being stuck with lower priority service upon return.

Starlink Standard offers generally higher network priority than Mobile users, making it an advantageous option for most customers. It is priced at $120/mo, but in areas where Starlink has excess capacity, the price is automatically dropped to $90/mo. 

One positive change in the new Starlink terms of service is that these plans now offer unlimited usage and are no longer subject to deprioritization after reaching a 1 TB data limit – a policy that SpaceX had previously announced but never enforced. 

However, the terms of service do caution that heavy users who consistently exceed typical usage limits may experience service degradation to prevent interruptions for other users. It is unclear where this threshold lies.

Starlink Priority Plan

Starlink Priority, previously known as Starlink Business, is a fixed location plan tailored for demanding users. The plan includes a set amount of “priority data” depending on the chosen tier. These are the options available:

  • 1TB for $250/month
  • 2TB for $500/month
  • 6TB for $1500/month 

Additional priority data can be purchased at $0.50 per gigabyte. SpaceX guarantees faster and more consistent download and upload speeds while using priority data, particularly when compared to Mobile and Standard users.

The Starlink Priority plan operates in such a way that after using up the priority data allocated for the chosen plan tier, customers can still continue to use the internet at Standard priority with unlimited usage for the rest of the month. 

This represents a significant improvement over the old Starlink Business plan where exceeding the data cap meant being throttled down to an almost unusable 1 Mbps speed until the next monthly reset. 

Additionally, Starlink Priority customers now have the option to purchase extra priority data automatically for $0.50/GB, which is a reasonably priced solution for demanding users without affordable cellular alternatives.

Starlink Mobile Plan

Starlink’s Mobile plan, previously known as Starlink Roam and Starlink for RVs, has undergone significant changes. The plan operates at the lowest priority level on Starlink’s network, and customers may experience slow and frustrating internet speeds during peak times in congested areas. The Mobile plan is still available in two options: 

  • Regional for $150/month, offering unlimited land-based usage within the customer’s home continent, and 
  • Global for $200/month, offering unlimited land-based usage worldwide, where authorized.

In addition, Starlink Mobile customers can now opt-in to purchase Mobile Priority data for $2/GB. This data can be used anywhere Starlink has service, even in the middle of the ocean or while in motion (on approved equipment). 

The Priority data can be turned on by customers when they need to rise above network congestion or need oceanic coverage, but they may need to pay extra for this service.

The Starlink terms have undergone some significant changes, and one of the biggest surprises is that the Mobile plan no longer offers unlimited in-motion use when traveling on land.

This change is likely to upset customers who paid $2,500 for a Flat HP Starlink for in-motion usage. Previously, SpaceX officially supported unlimited in-motion usage for all Roam customers with the Flat High Performance receiver, but now in-motion usage requires more expensive data and hardware.

Although paying more for a service that was previously included may upset some customers, SpaceX has enabled the option for a mobile user to turn the Mobile Priority Data on/off as needed during the month. This option will help users control the amount of Mobile Priority data they use in a given month on top of their $150 monthly service fee, and usage will be tracked separately in the usage report screen under the Starlink account settings.

It is worth noting that the new policy may significantly increase the cost of streaming Netflix to keep passengers entertained while cruising across remote West Texas. Nevertheless, the ability to control Mobile Priority data usage is a welcome feature for many users.

 

Starlink Mobile Priority Plan

The Starlink Mobile Priority Plan is designed for maritime, mobility, and roam users who require high-speed connectivity while in motion or at sea. Previously known as the Maritime plan, this plan has combined the flexibility of the Mobile plan with the network priority of the Priority plan, allowing it to be used anywhere in the world, including in motion and at sea.

The Mobile Priority plan offers a fixed amount of “priority data” based on the chosen plan tier, providing customers with flexibility in their data usage. The plan is available in three different tiers: 50GB for $250/mo, 1TB for $1,000/mo, and 5TB for $5,000/mo. In addition, users can opt-in to purchase extra Mobile Priority data at a rate of $2.00 per GB.

Customers who exhaust their priority data while on land, including lakes and rivers, and choose not to opt-in for more priority data, will be downgraded to low-priority “unlimited mobile data” for the rest of their billing cycle. On the other hand, users who exhaust their priority data while at sea will lose connectivity for the remainder of the month, except for accessing Starlink.com to upgrade to a higher tier plan or to opt-in to more priority data at $2/GB.

 

Other Starlink Plans

Not everyone has access to two other types of Starlink service.

Starlink Best Effort

For those who pre-order Starlink Standard in a waitlisted area and receive an early access invitation, the Starlink Best Effort plan is still an option. This plan allows customers to skip the waiting period but provides them with the lowest priority network access, similar to the Starlink Mobile plan. It is priced at $120 per month, the same as Starlink Standard. 

However, unlike Starlink Standard, the Best Effort plan allows customers to pause service if they find the “best effort” level of service inadequate. This way, they can still retain their spot in line for Starlink Standard. 

No changes have been made to this plan.

Starlink Residential + Portability

The Starlink Residential + Portability is a previously available plan that is now grandfathered, allowing Starlink Residential/Standard customers to maintain priority access at their home address and receive Mobile priority when away from home. Customers who opt for this plan will be charged an additional $25/mo on top of the Standard plan, which costs $90/mo or $120/mo + $25/mo.

SpaceX has informed customers with this plan that they can continue to use it, but if they switch to any of the current plans, they will not be able to revert to their previous plan. If a user no longer desires to stay on this plan, they can change to another current plan but will lose their Residential + Portability plan. Currently, users on this plan cannot switch to a different plan without reaching out to Starlink support for assistance.

Changing Starlink Service Plans

Starlink has recently introduced a new feature that allows users to switch between plans at their convenience via the Starlink app or online dashboard. This new option enables users to switch between Starlink Standard, Priority, Mobile, and Mobile Priority plans according to their changing requirements. According to the Starlink FAQ, the timing of moving plans depends on whether the user is moving up or down in price.

If a user decides to move to a higher-priced plan, the change will take effect immediately, and they will be charged a pro-rated amount depending on the difference in monthly cost and the time remaining in their current billing cycle. 

On the other hand, if they decide to switch to a lower-priced plan, their current plan will remain in effect, and the new plan will begin at the start of the next billing cycle, with the new monthly service fee being charged at that time. 

Finally, if the user decides to switch to a plan with the same cost as their current plan, the change will be made immediately at no extra cost.

Making The Plan Work For You

Thanks to the ability to change plans and opt-in to mobile priority, Starlink users can now customize their plans to suit their needs and get the most out of the service. Here are a few examples of how this can work for different users:

  • As a homeowner, you may decide to go camping a few times a year and switch from Starlink Standard to Starlink Mobile to stay connected while traveling. When you return home, you can switch back to Starlink Standard (if local capacity is available).
  • As a full-time RVer, you may spend your winters in a fixed location and opt for Starlink Standard (if available) to save on your monthly bill and get higher priority of service. During summers, you may switch to Starlink Mobile as you travel.
  • If you’re on Starlink Mobile and find yourself in an area with heavy network congestion, you can temporarily switch to Mobile Priority and pay per GB used to ensure high-quality service during important meetings or work.
  • As a boat owner with the flat HP dish, you may choose to use Starlink Mobile while docked next to land and then upgrade to Starlink Mobile Priority for an open-water crossing. Alternatively, you could opt-in to Mobile Priority for the crossing and opt-out when you return to port.

While the added flexibility is a great benefit, it’s up to Starlink users to ensure they choose the plans that suit their needs best.

Conclusion

Several Starlink users who have been utilizing the service while boating have received notifications stating that unlimited data at sea is no longer affordable. Over the past month, Starlink has made a few minor changes followed by several significant changes, resulting in updated plans, TOS, and a Fair Use Policy with more clarity and fewer ambiguities. The new plans explicitly outline their intended use cases, user types, and plan restrictions. 

For nomads, the two most significant changes will be the added cost for in-motion use, previously included with Starlink Mobile, and the requirement for boaters and cruisers to use the Mobile Priority plan while at sea instead of the former Starlink Roam (Starlink for RVs) plan, which had been cost-effective. It was only a matter of time before Starlink enforced their TOS for open water use, and it is no surprise that it has finally arrived.

Members have received emails notifying them that their usage of Starlink was against the TOS and that new changes would be enforced as early as May 9th, 2023. It remains uncertain if Starlink will limit in-motion or ocean usage to only the Flat High Performance dish. Customers in open waters with the Standard dish have been informed that they need to purchase Mobile Priority data. It is suspected that Starlink will also block in-motion usage on Standard Starlink dishes and limit it to only plans with Mobile Priority data. However, it is hoped that slow-moving boats can still connect without needing in-motion capabilities or a high-performance dish.

As changes with Starlink plans and equipment are frequent, users are advised to keep their options open and have backup plans in case future changes negatively affect them. Starlink is known for making changes with little to no warning, and it seems that change is the only constant with the service.

 

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