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Internet on the go: FCC greenlights Starlink service on moving cars, boats, and planes

If you're ready for connectivity on the move, SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband might soon be the answer.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

If you're ready for connectivity on the move, SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband may soon be the answer. The US Federal Communications Commission on Thursday gave the internet provider the greenlight to provide service on moving vehicles, boats, and planes. 

The new authority should help SpaceX meet "the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move," wrote FCC International Bureau Chief Tom Sullivan in the approval, "whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a U.S. port, or while on a domestic or international flight."

Earlier this year, Starlink began selling Starlink for RVs, but the service wasn't designed to work on the move. It was intended for users traveling to areas with slow or no broadband alternatives.

SEE: Will Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, a SpaceX competitor, finally make it to the ISS?

The new approval specifically grants SpaceX authority to operate consumer and enterprise Ku-band Earth Stations in Motion (ESIM) in the 12 GHz band. However, the FCC granted the approval with some conditions. 

First, SpaceX has to accept that there could be interference from other current and future operators in the 12 GHz band. SpaceX's authority to operate in the band is unprotected, so if other services interfere with the quality of SpaceX's service, that's simply too bad. The FCC also is requiring SpaceX to disclose to its customers that there's no expectation of interference protection. 

The FCC granted SpaceX its new authority over the objections of a handful of other service providers. Satellite broadband provider Viasat, RS Access (a wireless network service backed by Michael Dell), and DISH all petitioned against it. DISH and RS Access already operate in the 12 GHz band, while Viasat is a manufacturer of Ku-band equipment, a provider of Ku-band satellite connectivity, and a Ku-band ESIM licensee.  

Meanwhile, SpaceX is in a separate, broader regulatory tussle with DISH and RS Access over whether the 12 GHz band should be available for both ground-based and space-based services. The FCC has yet to rule on that matter.

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