Our main challenge was the absence of additional accessories for mounting, as that shipment got delayed. Therefore, we had to make do with the basic stand that comes with the dish. With our main fiber setup also delayed, we decided to place the dish on our flat patio roof for a trial run. The setup was surprisingly easy; the dish auto-configured, and within five minutes, we had a robust internet connection. Speed tests showed downloads exceeding 100 Mbps and uploads around 20 Mbps.
Thunderstorms and Heavy Rain – Secure Your Starlink Dish Properly
The significant issue with a free-standing setup is its lack of security, especially in areas frequented by monkeys, baboons, and other wildlife. Our first real test came when heavy rains and thunderstorms hit Nomads Den in Hoedspruit. This had us scrambling onto the patio roof in the middle of the night to re-secure the dish. The good news? Starlink’s connection remained stable even during the downpour. However, it’s crucial to secure your dish properly to avoid midnight surprises.
Obstructions – The Dish Faces South
To my surprise, the Starlink dish in South Africa faces south. Despite obstructions like a large tree and our main roof, the dish signaled “all clear” after 24+ hours of use. This is excellent news, as it’s much easier to attach the dish to a flat patio roof than to a pole, especially when you lack the proper accessories.
Reliability and Speed – Context Matters
Nomads Den is situated in a rural, bushy area where connectivity is often a challenge. Compared to traditional line-of-sight wireless options, Starlink has provided consistent and fast speeds, likely due to fewer active dishes in our area.
Investment and Running Costs
To get Starlink operational in South Africa, our initial investment was approximately 15,400 ZAR for the dish and 915 ZAR for the monthly subscription. It’s important to note that these costs are subject to exchange rates.
Let’s explore the alternatives:
Fiber provided by Telkom through the Openserve network – 150 Mbps (closest option)
- Subscription per month: 889 ZAR
- Installation: No costs with a 12-month contract
Wireless/Line-of-Sight solution by Letaba Wireless – 15 Mbps down/4 Mbps up
- Subscription per month: 1,495 ZAR
- Installation: Minimum of 2,500 ZAR
In comparison, if speed and price are your primary concerns, fiber is the clear winner. On the other hand, traditional wireless or line-of-sight solutions quickly become obsolete due to their lower speed and reliability. However, if you’re not concerned about speed and don’t plan on using the connection long-term, line-of-sight might still be a viable option for you.
Load Shedding and South African Infrastructure
Our experience with fiber has been mostly positive, but we’ve had a few outages, the longest lasting 36 hours. This was the primary reason we sought a secondary option like Starlink. While Starlink also experiences downtime, it generally seems to offer a more reliable and faster experience.
Although Starlink lacks official support in South Africa, for us at Nomads Den, the risk is worth taking. Our experience has exceeded expectations, and we hope that local legislation will soon officially support this technology, benefiting millions who currently struggle with connectivity.
Coming Up – Starlink Network Integration
Our Ethernet adapter has arrived, and we will soon integrate Starlink as a secondary ISP/WAN into our network. We’ll share our experiences with using Starlink in a more commercial setting in upcoming posts.