Starlink internet has taken the telecom market by storm. Demand currently outpaces supply with pre-orders more than a year out as of August 2022. For folks living in remote locations, Starlink is like a golden ticket to the modern era. For these individuals, Starlink is likely the only high speed internet service provider they have access to. They are also happy to pay the $110 per month that Starlink currently costs.
Starlink does however come with a few important to consider limitations. For this reason. I would not recommend most people switch to Starlink if they have access to cable or fiber internet. Cable and fiber internet are still better in almost all cases and likely cost less per month.
What is VoIP
VoIP is an acronym for voice over internet protocol. Voice over IP (VoIP) technology allows for digitized bits of audio to reliably get transmitted over modern packet switched networks (AKA the internet). This has opened up a whole world of possibilities that never used to exist.
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone services are extremely popular both for residential and business customers.
You likely use VoIP technology without even realizing it. Products such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and other videoconferencing solutions all use VoIP in one form or another.
VoIP is also used by popular home phone replacement services such as Ooma, Vonage, and MagicJack. The WiFi calling feature built into many smartphones also relies on VoIP technology.
The bottom line is you probably use VoIP for one reason on another. Does VoIP work well with Starlink Internet?
VoIP generally works well on Starlink but occasional lapses in Starlink coverage can be frustrating because it may lead to a dropped call. This is especially true when using the WiFi calling function on your smartphone. Applications such as Zoom are slightly more tolerant of brief drops in internet service.
Hands On Review Of Using VoIP With Starlink
I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on Starlink from early on and to be able to test it under real world conditions. This includes testing at multiple locations and using a variety VoIP of services.
Generally Starlink will work acceptably for VoIP applications but not as well as a cable or fiber based internet connection. The fact that your Starlink Terminal has to frequently switch its connection to a new satellite passing overhead increases the chance of having a dropped call.
latency with Starlink is generally in the 40 ms – 60 ms range. This is technically okay for VoIP but it is higher than what would be considered ideal. Jitter is also higher in with Starlink often often in the 15 ms range. This is usually low enough for VoIP but in some cases jitter can spike higher leading to issues.
Zoom Recommends the Following
- Latency: 150 ms or less is recommended. Higher latency values will result in noticeable delays between video and audio.
- Jitter: 40 ms or less is recommended.
- Packet Loss: Less than 2% is recommended.
Microsoft Teams and Skype have similar requirements as do most VoIP applications.
As you can see Starlink has no trouble meeting the basic requirements. This means that as long as your Starlink Terminal has a clear view of the sky you will usually have no issues.
In my own testing I can confirm that this is usually the case. I did however experience some audio stuttering when also downloading files at the same time.
The main issue with Starlink for VoIP is drops. It is not that uncommon to have drops in Starlink Internet Service that last for several seconds at a time. For Netflix streaming or web surfing you will likely not notice them all that much. For real-time applications such as VoIP and online gaming, the drops are frustrating to say the least.
Overall Starlink is useable for VoIP but far from matching the performance of a decent wired internet service such as cable, fiber, or even DSL for that matter.
How to Improve Starlink VoIP Performance
There are a number of factors that impact Starlink VoIP performance. Most are outside of our control. However, there are a few things that we can do that will absolutely help to make VoIP more reliable over Starlink.
The following is a list of things that will help to improve your Starlink VoIP Experience.
- Make sure your Starlink Terminal (Dish) has a clear view of the sky.
- Use your own router and put your Starlink router into bypass (bridge) mode.
- Use a wired ethernet connection rather than a Wi-Fi connection.
- Try different VoIP applications.
Make Sure your Starlink Terminal (Dish) has a Clear View of the Sky
Starlink VoIP performance is largely dependent on your ability to get a clear view of the sky. Any obstructions will greatly increase the chance of connection drops. The best way to check this is to use the Starlink Mobile App to scan the sky where you are considering putting your Starlink Terminal (Dish).
If you are not able to get a clear view of the sky you will have issues with Starlink. This is especially noticeable if you are going to use VoIP with Starlink. VoIP is not forgiving of drops in internet or packets arriving late. The Starlink App is your best friend here.
Use Your Own Router and put Your Starlink Router Into Bypass Mode
Starlink includes a very basic router with its equipment package. For some people the included Starlink router is more than enough. However the Starlink router includes no quality of service (QoS) settings. This means that it has no ability to prioritize real-time VoIP traffic over other less time sensitive traffic.
There are a few things to be aware of if you want to use your own router with Starlink.
Using your own router with Starlink is relatively simple. The first step is to purchase a router that meets your needs. Make sure you are buying a straight up router and not a modem router combo. Starlink does not use a modem. If you already have a router that you are happy with you can skip this step.
You will also need to purchase the official Starlink ethernet adaptor. 3rd party ethernet adaptors are not compatible with Starlink.
Next you will need to enable bypass (bridge) mode on your Starlink Router.
Finally you will connect your Starlink router to your new router using an ethernet cable and the required Starlink ethernet adaptor.
For VoIP you will want to choose a router with good QoS functionality. This well greatly improve the audio quality of your VoIP calls. It will also minimize some of the jitter.
Use a Wired Ethernet Connection Rather than a WiFi Connection
Using a hardwired ethernet connection will improve the performance of your network connection. This is almost universally true. When it comes to VoIP it is especially impactful. For reliable VoIP you want to minimize any chances of data arriving late or out of order. Wi-Fi is susceptible to interference because it is a radio signal. It is also operating on unlicensed bands that are essentially free-for-all’s.
If you can’t run an ethernet cable to where you need it, consider using a powerline or MoCA adaptor. These use your existing household electrical wiring or existing coaxial cable to provide ethernet like connectivity. This is generally going to be more stable than a WiFi connection.
Try Different VoIP Applications
If you are having difficulty with using Starlink for VoIP calls try using a different application. If you are using Teams, try Zoom, etc. There are many options and some are more forgiving than others. In my own testing Zoom tended to perform better than most other options when jitter was on the higher side.
Zoom is also less likely to completely kick you out of a call due to a brief drop. WiFi calling on my cell phone was kind of a complete miss with Starlink. It appeared that every couple of minutes or less there would be a compete disconnect where the call would drop.
Conclusion- Is Starlink Good for VoIP
Yes and no. Starlink will work for VoIP especially with Zoom. However, you could get disconnected at anytime if there is a drop in satellite signal. This can greatly be minimized by using the Starlink App to ensure your dish has the best possible view if the sky.
You can certainly use Starlink for VoIP, but if you use VoIP technology regularly, you may want to look elsewhere. Cable, Fiber, and DSL are all going to offer better VoIP reliability than Starlink.
If you do opt for Starlink you should absolutely consider using your own router rather than the included Starlink router. The included Starlink router simply underperforms and offers very limited functionality. Basic features such as QoS, port forwarding, and Guest WiFi are not even offered.
If you have a larger home you should consider using a WiFi Mesh System such as the Netgear Orbi or AmpliFi mesh products. They offer fantastic range at an affordable price. They are also dead simple to set up.
Using your own router will generally offer better VoIP performance especially with QoS enabled.