FCC authorizes SpaceX to bring Starlink internet to airplanes, ships, and more

From now on, people will always be reachable.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Earlier in June, we brought you the news that SpaceX's satellite internet service may soon be available for passengers aboard Royal Caribbean Group cruise ships. Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday granted SpaceX the ability to expand its service to trains, ships, and other vehicles such as RVs, according to CNN.

Achieving lower latency

Hawaiian Airlines signed a deal with SpaceX in April stating it had ambitious plans to bring Starlink services to some of its jets. For the longest time, airlines, ships, and trains have relied on satellites residing in geosynchronous orbits more than 22,000 miles away.

SpaceX's Starlink, however, has put thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit, or just a few hundred miles off the ground. The company claims this approach leads to lower latency.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has previously stated that on-the-move Starlink internet is possible, tweeting that "Starlink does work on vehicles in motion, including planes, but not yet reliably." Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Group wrote a letter to the FCC praising Starlink's services.

John Maya, vice president of operational excellence at Royal Caribbean Group, wrote: "We believe we have identified a true next-generation solution for our vessels," adding that "our work with SpaceX, the first of its kind in the cruise industry, will set the standard for other cruise operators and will mean a leap in terms of guest experience and business operations while at sea."

In the public's best interest

Meanwhile, the FCC argued in its letter of authorization for Starlink dated June 30 that approving the new capability is in the public’s best interest. “We agree with SpaceX and Kepler that the public interest would benefit by granting with conditions their applications,” the FCC wrote.

“Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, 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.”

What does this mean for the common folk?

It means that connectivity will now be available at all times. No more shutting your phone off when you get on a plane, go on a cruise, or drive cross country. In a recent interview with IE, off-grid Starlink user Steve Birch said the service Starlink provides is brilliant, but it's also "a double-edged sword," as he's now "always reachable." 

You can consider that a good or bad thing but the fact remains that the option to be connected will now be a universal one. But how much will this connectivity cost? We answer this question and more in our article here.

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