Starlink Tree Mount

I’ve nearly got all the plans for the Starlink tree mount finalized.

The Starlink system is very simple but my situation makes it more complex. There’s a terminal (the “dish”) that connects to a power supply. There’s a wifi router that connects to the same power supply. Both rely on the network cables for power. You plug the two network cables into the power supply, plug the power supply into the wall, and a few minutes later you have high speed, low latency satellite internet.

That’s how it works for most people. For us, the terminal can’t sit on the ground or the roof and must go up at the top of a pretty tall tree where it will have a more expansive view of the sky. The Starlink satellite constellation is still young and pretty sparse so the terminal needs to be able to look across a wide piece of the sky to maintain contact with enough of the fast moving satellites to provide a continuous connection. If the view of the sky is narrow, the terminal can’t see the next satellite as it comes over the horizon and the internet connection will drop until the terminal does have line of sight on that next incoming satellite.

The first thing I need to do is to extend the terminal’s cable by nearly 50 feet so that the cable will reach the ground from the top of the tree. (The tree is about 135 feet tall and the terminal’s built in cable is only 100 feet long.) For several days now I’ve been testing a 50 foot extension of 23 AWG shielded ethernet cable connected with a simple waterproof inline coupler and all seems fine. This was one of the most concerning parts of the plan. Extending the cable 100 feet didn’t work, leading to low power situations and reboots of the terminal. I’m really glad 50 feet seems to work.

Then I’m going to bring power to the base of the tree. I can’t extend the terminal’s cable more than 50 feet without degrading the system and that extension isn’t enough to reach the house so I’m going to need to bring AC out to the tree. I’ll tie into an outdoor outlet on our patio, hire a neighbor and his trencher to dig the ditch, lay about 30 feet of buried PVC conduit, and pull some THWN wires or UF-B cable.

Next I’ll install a fiberglass NEMA 3RX weatherproof junction box on a post near the base of the tree which will house the terminal’s power supply and a small UPS. The power supply gets quite hot so I’m getting an enclosure with a thermostat and exhaust fan. This box is why I’m happy I was able to extend the terminal’s cable. I really didn’t look forward to mounting it 30-40 feet up the tree. Not only would the mount be difficult, but later servicing would require a long extension ladder.

After that, I’ll run ethernet cable from the power supply in the NEMA enclosure to the house through an existing buried conduit (not in the same trench as the power line) where it will hook up to the wifi router. That will complete the major work on the ground for this install.

Once all of those pieces are in place, the tree climb will happen. I won’t be doing that myself but I will assemble the mount, gather up the tools and fasteners and be ready to assist the tree climber with that final step of the installation. The mount is a heavy duty J style satellite dish mount with two additional stabilizing brackets. The terminal will bolt to the top of that and and the cable will be zip tied to the mount and secured to the tree every 20 feet or so with cable clips to prevent strain.

Once that’s done, I’ll open the power enclosure and plug in the power supply. If all has gone well, I should have a ~150 Mbps internet connection which will be almost precisely 100 times faster than what we have today. I can’t wait.

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