Starlink internet has grown exponentially in popularity over the last couple of years. Demand currently outpaces supply with pre-orders more than a year out as of August 2022. For many people living in remote locations, 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 WiFi Calling
WiFi calling is a feature that is offered by most cell phone carriers these days to allow for making and receiving calls outside of the range of the providers cellular network. This works using your WiFi data connection to form a connection securely into the cell phone network.
WiFi calling is essentially a carrier specific form of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) communications. WiFi calling uses VoIP to send digital packets of data into the cell phone network to make and receive calls.
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 your smartphone relies on similar VoIP technology.
Hands On Review Of Using WiFi Calling 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 WiFi calling with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
Generally Starlink will work acceptably for WiFi calling 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 not an issue for WiFi caling 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 WiFi calling but in some cases jitter can spike higher leading to issues with voice quality.
Main Starlink WiFi Calling Issue
The main issue with Starlink with Wi-Fi calling 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 making WiFi calls, drops in Starlink generally result in your phone call also dropping. This is extremely frustrating and can occur with surprising frequency.
Overall Starlink is useable for WiFi calling and other VoIP applications, but far from matching the performance of a decent wired internet service such as cable, fiber, or even DSL for that matter.
Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile Wi-Fi Calling With Starlink
All 3 of the major US cell phone carriers offer WiFi calling as part of their service plans. Based on my testing with all 3 carriers using WiFi calling on Starlink, I can conclude that Verizon offers the best WiFi call performance.
Verizon was the most tolerant of brief interruptions in connection cause by the Starlink dish changing satellites. This is key if you do not want to get dropped every few minutes. Starlink is constantly tracking satellites and switching as a new satellite comes into view.
AT&T worked well most of the time but did experience a few more drops when compared to Verizon. This is also supported by data from RootMetrics which analyzed WiFi calling performance but not specific to Starlink.
T-Mobile was a mixed bag. On some days performance was acceptable and drops were minimal. On other dats WiFi calling was completely impossible with disconnects occurring every couple of minutes or less. This was not observed with Verizon or AT&T on these days. Therefor we are confident that this is a T-Mobile specific issue.
Overall our testing showed that you can use WiFi calling with Starlink, but drops are a real possibility. This will hopefully improve as more Starlink Satellites get launched into low earth orbit.
How to Improve WiFi Calling Performance
There are a number of factors that impact Starlink Wi-Fi calling performance. Most are outside of our control. However, there are a few things that we can do that will absolutely help to make WiFi calling more reliable over Starlink.
The following is a list of things that will help to improve your Starlink WiFi Calling 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.
Make Sure your Starlink Terminal (Dish) has a Clear View of the Sky
Stability is the name of the game for reliable WiFi calling. Most of the WiFi calling issues that occur with Starlink are related to stability and not to download and upload bandwidth. Voice calls use surprisingly little bandwidth.
Starlink stability 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).
Download Starlink App for Android
Download Starlink App for iPhone
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 use WiFi calling with Starlink. VoIP technologies are 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. This is detrimental to Wi-Fi calling performance.
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 best WiFi calling performance, you will want to choose a router with good QoS functionality. This well greatly improve the audio quality of your voice calls. It will also minimize some of the jitter.
Learn More About Using Your Own Router With Starlink
Conclusion- Does WiFi Calling Work With Starlink
Yes and no. Starlink will work for Wi-Fi calling. 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 WiFi calling, but if you have no cellular signal and rely on WiFi calling 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 and fast speeds at an affordable price. They are also dead simple to set up.
Using your own router will generally offer better WiFi calling performance especially with QoS enabled.