SpaceX Starlink internet: As SpaceX continues to deploy multiple satellites in low-Earth orbit as part of its Starlink Internet project, the company said this week that it is in talks with “several airlines” about providing in-flight Wi-Fi.
Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and commercial sales, made the announcement during an event at the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit Wednesday, The Verge reported.
“We are in talks with several airlines,” Hofeller said, speaking at the event, and added: “We have our own aviation product in development … We’ve done several demonstrations to date, and we want to refine that product to install on aircraft in the very near future.”
SpaceX‘s main goal with its Starlink initiative is to provide broadband connectivity to unserved or underserved communities around the world by using its space satellites to transmit Internet to the ground.
The company, led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is deploying Starlink satellites in batches of about 60 each during regular rocket launches that began in May 2019. Starlink’s last launch was on May 26, and the company now has about 1,800 satellites in orbit. Although about 2,500 more Starlink satellites need to be deployed for global coverage, the company managed to launch a beta version of the service, and by March it already had more than 10,000 customers worldwide, each paying $99 a month, plus a one-time fee of $499 for the Starlink kit.
Hofeller’s comments indicate that in addition to its ambitions to bring Internet to homes, the company is making a serious effort to enter other markets to further commercialize its technology.
Prior to Hofeller’s comments this week, a statement filed with the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year reported that SpaceX was considering the idea of installing its Internet terminals in moving vehicles. At the time, Musk confirmed the news in a tweet, saying the goal was to connect “airplanes, ships, large trucks and vans,” but not cars, because the equipment is currently “too big.” Hofeller’s revelation that SpaceX is in talks with a number of airlines – he did not say which ones – suggests that the plan is beginning to take shape.
The SpaceX news would certainly interest companies such as Intelsat and ViaSat, two well-established providers of in-flight Internet services, although it appears that Musk has not yet reached an agreement with any interested airline.