Electronics, hardware, Networking, Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering of the Starlink Ethernet adapter

The new generation of the Starlink terminal was released at the end of 2021. Dishy antenna is square now, and a completely redesigned indoor unit combines WiFi router and power supply. The new design should be more cost-effective, so there is no AUX Ethernet port on the router, only WiFi.
Later SpaceX released an official Ethernet adapter that brings up the port back.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of this solution. I don’t have the new router yet, so I can’t tell if there are any design limitations inside the device.
Probably SpaceX has some usage stats that show most users use only WiFi.
I managed to find the adapter and reverse engineering this simple device. Just why not 🙂

 

The Starlink ethernet adapter has the Ethernet port, Dishy proprietary port, and Dishy proprietary connector.

The new waterproof connector was introduced in the new Dishy design. Previously they used standard Ethernet.
Basically, this adapter connects between the Dishy terminal and the WiFi router.

It’s easy to open the plastic cover with a flat screwdriver. Not much in there:

The Double-sided board contains connectors and an Ethernet circuit.

So, this is just a Dishy Ethernet + PoE passthrough and AUX Ethernet transformer with a required minimal circuit.
This means that the router contains a 2-port switch.

The first port is used for Dishy. All required Ethernet frontend is on the router board.
The second port is used for the AUX Ethernet, but the Ethernet transformer is now in this adapter. It saves a few bucks and some space on the router board. But I don’t think this is good to move Ethernet magnetics so far away from the PHY IC.

Here is a schematic of the adapter:

Click on the image for the full resolution schematic of the Starlink adapter.
The short adapter cable contains two twisted-pair lines with separate shieldings.
Thicker wires are used for the Dishy Ethernet+PoE passthrough.
Thinner wires connect the AUX Ethernet circuit.
Both lines share common ground.

The Starlink proprietary connector it’s a 20-pin interface that looks like a mini-HDMI but not the same.
There is an SPX marking on the connector, so I guess it’s custom-made for SpaceX.

Here is a pinout of the socket (router and adapter inputs):

PoE lines use two pins per wire.
Please note that contacts 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, and 20 are used only on the Router side. These are AUX Ethernet data lines.
It would be nice to get the new router and see if it’s possible to integrate this circuit inside the router.
Thanks for reading.

23 thoughts on “Reverse engineering of the Starlink Ethernet adapter

  1. I don’t even want their router… A wire coming from the dish, inside, and it’s got an ethernet plug on it. I set up PPPoE or whatever, and get an IP. I hate it when companies for me to do dumb things just because some of their customers are dumb.

    I’m currently using a cell phone with uncapped service through a DIY router made of an ODROID XU4 w/ ArchLinuxArm serving DHCP and DNSmasq services. I’m not a child. I don’t need or want Big Brother controlling everything.

    Stop helping me to death!

    1. True. but most people don’t even know how to set up a router… So yes u may not be stupid when it comes to technology but a lot of people are.

    2. Most people don’t even know what a router is. They should at least give us the option, though.

  2. they should have included this in all their kits(probably extra $5 cost to make) instead of us getting the router and find out there’s not an ethernet port, now it’s a month and a half for wait for this, annoying af

  3. One limitation on the router (that comes with rectangle dishy) is that you can’t use arbitrary SSID names. For example my existing network is called something like “example.net” but SL router won’t accept the name with a “.” In it. So I have to change every device on my network or add another access point. Annoying and unnecessary.

  4. Apparently Elon never installed antennas as a kid. Just one drop or dirt or from dragging that connector around or one chunk of plaster from trying to shove it thru a hole in the wall will ruin everything! He should use two cat cables. One for data and one for the power hungry array. Then a couple of 1/4 inch holes will take you anywhere!

  5. It is possible to explain what happenis if I did not disable the wireless on the startlink router. I have a situation where I woud like ot keep using the wifi on the starlink and want to connect a single device to the port in the adabtor not another router. It would not matter if it was not the same network address as the other devices so long as both the wireless and the lan had internet access.

    Thanks

  6. @ross You can leave the wifi active while using the Ethernet, both are served DHCP from the router on the same subnet (192.168.1.x not changable as far as I’ve been able to see)

    @jim, it’s far easier to snap the clip off of a RH45 than to damage these connectors

    1. Thanks for this. It will be a great outcome so I have ordered it. We are outskirts of Brisbane Australia and the internet is pathetic. The Starlink is great and 5 times faster when NBN is at its best 100 times faster when NBN is struggling. It’s expensive but a great result for us. Thanks

  7. Thanks Oleg – really useful article and you obviously know your stuff. I had a bit of a disaster with my starlink lead yesterday in that it got cut. I have repaired it and the service now works fine but the Ethernet connection does not. I can have the starlink lead going to the Ethernet adapter and into the router but there is no internet from the Ethernet lead itself plugged into the adapter. Do you think it’s possible that on cutting the lead it could have damaged some of the Ethernet circuitry and so now the Ethernet part of the adapter doesn’t work but the starlink bit still does?

    1. Duncan, I have done the same thing. My lead got cut and I repaired it. After that I cannot get the ethernet adapter to work. I have great wifi internet but no ethernet. I took one step further and bought a second adapter but it does not work either. Im thinking one of the wires that has power sent power down another wire as it was cut. Just cant figure it out yet. At least my wifi still works and dishy still moves. I just have to figure out if that excess power went to the dishy or the router to make the adapter not work.

      1. HI Jonathan. I have now tried a new Ethernet adapter (in fact 2 as starlink also sent me a replacement) and a new wire but still no better. Starlink are now sending out a new router so presumably that should fix things and as you say it feels like it must have been something that was damaged in the router as my wife, dish all works fine apart from the Ethernet.

  8. My Ethernet adapter has a connector with only 16 contact pins inside (Wire Connector that plugs into POE router). Your diagram is not correct at least for my version I received 17 May 2022.

    1. Interesting. I don’t understand how they could fit in there all required signals. They need 18 pins at least.
      Will you open your Ethernet adapter to check what’s inside?

  9. Look into the plug end that fits into the router. I see only 16 contacts loaded, the other four side contacts are black spacers (at least on mine). Your photo of the wire end plug looks similar. I’ll take a closer look at mine later, router is still on the way.

    What’s more interesting is rectangular Dishy uses ~185W power when snow heaters on. That is a very high power level for POE, and at the extreme end of range for any power injection transformer. Usually 140W or 150W is the upper limit, but perhaps Elon has some special power magnetics made. I’ll take a look at that.

    Generally POE is a not the best idea at higher power levels – even Cat6 (23AWG) on a long wire run wastes a lot of power just heating the cable – not exactly green.
    .

  10. My Ethernet dongle adapter seems the same once opened up, but pins 9, 10 , 19, 20 on your diagram, on the wire-hanging router side plug, they have a black coating – which doesn’t conduct well. I thought they where plastic spacers, but when you examine the contacts under a microscope, the edge pins are covered in what looks like black paint or coating on those contacts. Your photo of that plug looks the same.

    What is curious it looks like they are using double contacts for half the POE – when they should be using double contacts for all four wire pairs for that size contact surface area in the connectors.. If you look at the MikeonSpace YouTube video of the Dishy Gen 3 teardown part 1, the POE injection / extraction transformer on the dish is Wurh 7490220126. People are reporting Dishy needs 180W power with snow heaters turned on, but that same Wurth transformer is supplied with the MAX5995A POE PD reference design kit sitting on my desk – and that transformer is good for about 70W power max., Not sure what they are doing here. In fact it looks like Starlink dish is using the same basic POE reference design, but doing something goofy along the way with wiring contact assignments.

    Over all it seems like Starlink is trying to make everything cheap as possible – like not supplying a reset switch on the router. They couldn’t spare the pennies cost for a reset switch? The Rectangular Starlink dish is just glued together to make it not very repairable or recyclable…I guess filling the landfill is preferable to spending a few pennies for housing screws.

    Weird. Some of the system is impressive, but the design of the Gen 3 user terminal seems really clumsy.. The round dishy’s seemed to be much better – even though they are heavier.

  11. remember that this doesn’t have to be compatible with any POE standards, it’s a proprietary system with proprietary connectors so you can’t connect it with anything else.

    This opens up flexibility for transferring power they would not have if they were following standards.

  12. Yes, there is NO real standard for anything over 71W on POE (there is a reason for that). POE kinda sucks for longer cable runs and higher power, and is really not Eco-friendly in these applications – wasting quite a bit of power over a year just heating the little 24AWG Cat5E patch cable that Starlink provides.. These rectangle dishes are measuring well over 70W (I’ve read >180W with heaters on, although I have to test that here) And that’s the point. No matter what convoluted wiring technique (I’ve seen them all on various high powered industrial Internet equipment – and they all fail at some point), you have to inject / extract power on the Ethernet isolation coil center taps and carry that power over the Ethernet cable. .Certainly the Ethernet isolation transformer as supplied on Gen3 dishy is not rated for higher power levels seen on Starlinks, so I suspect there will be reliability issues over time, especially in hot weather. The cable itself is a weak link too – especially when a Cat5e patch cable is trying to carry higher power.

    Oh well. We’ll just have to see what breaks over time.

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