SpaceX Wants Starlink to Power In-Flight Wi-Fi


Several different airlines are apparently in discussion about adopting Starlink for their aircraft.

(Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

SpaceX’s Starlink Internet may come to an airline near you. The communications company is reportedly meeting with “several” firms to discuss satellite-powered in-flight Wi-Fi.

“We are in talks with several airlines,” SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and commercial sales Jonathan Hoffler revealed at Wednesday’s Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit, as reported by The Nerdshala. “We have our own aviation product in development. … We have already made some demonstrations, and [are] Looking forward to getting that product finalized in the near future.”

The Starlink constellation, which will eventually consist of thousands of satellites spread across multiple orbits, provides a low-cost, high-performance solution for fast Internet access. Aimed at rural and remote customers with limited access to wireless networking, Starlink is capable of theoretically delivering 150 Mbps speeds to any location on the planet.

Since its beta debut, the price program—$99 per month, plus a one-time fee of $499 for a “phased-array” satellite dish and Wi-Fi router—has received high praise from users. As of early May, more than 500,000 people have placed orders for Starlink.

The sky is (literally) the limit for SpaceX, which hopes to expand its satellite Internet system to bigger trucks and RVs, ships and planes. In November, the firm filed plans to test Starlink on five Gulfstream jets, and four months later sought approval from the Federal Communications Commission to use it with Earth Stations in Motion. Another FCC filing from last week requested consent for testing an updated receiver with a square-shaped antenna, a design typically associated with aircraft antennae.

However, there’s a reason why in-flight Wi-Fi is a precious commodity: It’s difficult to connect to the Internet without close connectivity to ground stations. So if Starlink is going to work on traveling planes, it’s going to need a major update. “The next generation of our constellation, which is in the works, will have [the necessary] Inter-satellite connectivity,” Hoffler told The Nerdshala.

It is not clear which airlines the company has contacted. Ultimately, it will be up to each individual carrier whether to host Starlink Wi-Fi, or, as Hoffler put it, stick with a system “that is unresponsive to what their customers demand.”

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