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Ooma Home Phone Blog

How to add home phone service to Starlink satellite internet.

By |Friday January 14, 2022

Ooma customers who turn their eyes to the sky and sign up for the new Starlink satellite internet service, an offering from Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket venture, can rest assured that Ooma Telo home phone service is Starlink compatible.

Of course, as with any new technology, there are issues to consider. I’ll explain below.

Starlink is busy putting thousands of small satellites into low-earth orbit, just 300 miles above the surface, in comparison to previous satellite internet service with satellites 22,000 miles away. Because Starlink’s satellites are so much closer to earth, the service offers higher speeds and less latency (the time it takes internet data to get from you to its destination).

The testing site Ookla reports that Starlink’s average speed in the United States in the third quarter of 2021 was 87.25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 13.54 Mbps upstream.

Ooma’s residential phone services require only 0.384 Mbps up and down for crystal-clear call quality. Our testing shows no connectivity problems for Ooma when customers use Starlink as their internet service provider.

We’re excited that Starlink is opening the market to customers, such as those in rural areas, who previously didn’t have a fast enough internet connection to tap into the affordability and advanced features of voice over internet (VoIP) phone service.

So, what are the issues?

First, Starlink is officially still in its beta phase. In other words, a work in progress. According to the news site CNET, there were 1,791 Starlink satellites in orbit as of September 2021. That’s a lot and Starlink says many more are coming. But because low-earth satellites zip across the horizon very fast, there aren’t always enough Starlink satellites above any individual subscriber’s dish to maintain a constant connection.

The result can be breaks in the internet connection that would disrupt any VoIP call in progress. The good news is that SpaceX promises the situation will get better. “As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our network software, speed, latency and uptime will continue to improve,” the company says on its support site.

Starlink subscribers can use the service’s mobile app, available for iOS and Android, to track connectivity statistics over time. This can indicate whether the connection at the subscriber’s location is steady enough for VoIP phone calls.

Second, some adjustment may be required to connect the Ooma Telo base station, which reaches the internet through an Ethernet cable.

The original Starlink kit, with a round satellite dish, included a router with an AUX port for inserting an Ethernet cable, so there would be no problem connecting the Telo base station.

But the current Starlink kit, with a square satellite dish, includes a router without an Ethernet jack – the only way to access the internet is through the router’s Wi-Fi signal. There are at least two ways to overcome this limitation:

  1. Starlink sells an Ethernet adapter for $20 that makes a bridge from Wi-Fi to an Ethernet jack, although the Starlink online store currently says, “We are currently experiencing longer than expected wait times for this item.”
  2. Most consumer Wi-Fi routers can be configured to serve as a bridge through a setting called Bridge Mode, Client Mode or something similar. An Ooma Telo base station can then be plugged into an Ethernet jack on the router.

Starlink subscribers can also use Ooma home phone service without Ethernet cables; the Ooma Telo Air base station has built-in Wi-Fi.

One final tongue-in-cheek out-of-this-world note of caution.

Elon Musk is famously determined to build the first human settlement on Mars. The Starlink terms of service includes this:

“For services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.”

Our lawyers want you to know that Ooma doesn’t yet have a plan for providing service on the moon, Mars or other planetary bodies. But we’d love to help the first humans on Mars call home!

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