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Elon Musk: Starlink Aviation means internet in planes will feel the same as at home

Starlink unveils Aero Terminal for satellite connectivity on aircraft.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on
Elon Musk points up
Image: Getty Images

SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband service could soon be available on some flights via its Starlink Aviation service. 

SpaceX announced its high speed, low-latency service will be available as soon as passengers walk on a flight.

SpaceX claims it can deliver "up to 350 Mbps" speeds on each plane, allowing all passengers to "access streaming-capable internet at the same time". 

"With latency as low as 20 ms, passengers can engage in activities previously not functional in flight, including video calls, online gaming, virtual private networks and other high data rate activities," it says on its website.  

Also: SpaceX's Starlink internet is now heading to cruise ships in 'game-changing' deal

Aviation is the fourth Starlink product, following residential, business, RVs, and maritime. SpaceX inked a deal with cruise operator Royal Caribbean to deploy Starlink across its entire fleet.   

SpaceX designed an aerodynamic, low-profile receiving terminal that it shows sitting on top of an aircraft. The terminal features electronically steered phased array antenna. 

"Internet in airplanes will feel same as if you were accessing Internet at home!," wrote SpaceX chief Elon Musk on Twitter.

The Starlink Aviation kit includes an Aero Terminal, power supply, two wireless access points, and harnesses. SpaceX says deliveries will start in 2023. 

GoGo is one example of an air-to-ground (ATG) wireless network that some US carriers offer. In other parts of the world, it's mostly satellites that provide in-flight Wi-Fi. Viasat offers commercial airlines satellite-based, in-flight Wi-Fi. Its geostationary satellites orbit at about 22,000 miles (34,000 km) above Earth. SpaceX's now 3,000-plus Starlink low-Earth orbit satellites circle the planet at 340 miles (550 km). Per Bloomberg, Intelsat, the largest provider of in-flight services, is on about 2,000 aircraft via its satellites, with 1,000 more connected by its ATG systems.

Hawaiian Airlines in April announced a deal with SpaceX Starlink in which it would provide passengers with free connectivity in 2023 on its Airbus A330 and A321neo fleet, and its new fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on flights to North America, Asia, and Oceania. JSX, a regional US carrier, recently trialled Starlink on a flight with a dozen people over California. 

SpaceX says Starlink Aviation will have global coverage, even in polar regions. It points out that geo-stationary satellites don't cover polar regions. 

The service appears to be targeted to business jets rather than commercial carriers. SpaceX notes that aircraft types currently supported for Starlink Aviation include: ERJ-135, ERJ-145, G650, G550, Falcon 2000, G450, Challenger 300, Challenger 350, Global Express, Global 5000, Global 6000, and Global 7500. The company will update its list of supported aircraft types over time. 

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