Is there a better way to make someone happy than providing them with swift and reliable internet on an airplane? Well, Elon Musk might soon have something to cheer people who are traveling. Musk’s space company SpaceX is reportedly working with several airlines with an aim to offer Wi-Fi with its satellite internet service, Starlink.
Recently, Jonathan Hofeller — SpaceX’s VP of Starlink, told a panel at the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit that SpaceX is moving ahead with its plans to shift its wireless internet service from only focusing on rural areas to more commercial options by the end of this year.
“We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Hofeller said. “We have our own aviation product in development … we’ve already done some demonstrations to date, and looking to get that product finalized to be put on aircraft in the very near future.”
Satellite internet is the future
The company kicked off a beta rollout of the satellite-based internet service in 2018 to fulfill a global need for broadband connections, especially in rural areas where setting up fiber connections is difficult.
Under the beta plan, Starlink customers had to pay a one-time fee of $499 and were provided with a bundle that packed a Starlink dish and Wi-Fi router. Besides, they were charged $99 per month for monthly service. The company has already launched around 1,800 Starlink satellites out of the planned 4,400 satellite constellation which is required to offer global coverage.
The satellite-based service relies on a model of low Earth orbit, where satellite clusters are placed closer to Earth rather than far away like geostationary orbits of big satellites.
A new internet race has begun
This technology has been budding and being used by many competitors such as Amazon that recently announced plans for a 3,000 satellite-strong low orbit mega-constellation. Besides, UK’s OneWeb has also launched around 180 satellites of a 640 satellite constellation.
“All in all, passengers and customers want a great experience that [geostationary] systems simply cannot provide,” Hofeller told the panel. “So it’s going to be up to the individual airline whether they want to be responsive to that, or if they’re okay with having a system that is not as responsive to their customers’ demand.”