In the ever-connected world that we live in today, it's odd to know that certain spots don't yet have reliable internet — one of which are airplanes. But, if SpaceX has anything to do with it, it'll make that happen.
SpaceX is reportedly in talks with "several airlines" about providing their aircraft with Starlink satellites' internet connection.
SpaceX’s VP of Starlink and commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller told a panel at the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit on Wednesday, June 9, that the company is looking to branch out and provide internet from its satellite network not only to rural and underserved areas around the world but also to aircraft, reported The Verge.
"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," he said.
In order for Starlink's network to be able to provide internet to moving planes, its satellites would have to be interconnected, said Hofeller, which would bounce signals off ground stations and would enable them to "talk" to each other with laser links — something Airbus is looking into for precisely the same reasons.
SpaceX Starlink systems
It certainly sounds like talks are underway, and if everything goes ahead as Hofeller hopes, internet will be available on airplanes soon.
SpaceX's Starlink network keeps gathering speed with nearly 1,800 satellites already up in orbit and 500,000 pre-orders for its internet systems in place as of early May.
Currently, Starlink's beta plan offers a one-off fee of $499 to its customers for its internet bundle that includes the Starlink satellite dish, and WiFi router. Then, customers have to pay $99 a month for its internet services — the hope is that this price will lower as Starlink's satellite network gets stronger and less exclusive.
In late April, SpaceX won the FCC's approval to fly its satellites lower in orbit, which provides stronger connections down on Earth. Moreover, these low-Earth orbit networks could be a good alternative for faraway geostationary orbits of large internet satellites that currently provide WiFi to commercial airplanes, points out Gizmodo.
SpaceX may have to fight tooth and nail to win over the "several" airlines it's allegedly in talks with, as it has some fierce competition from other internet providers like Amazon, Intel, ViaSat, and OneWeb, says The Verge.
Time will tell who provides internet for commercial airlines, and when, but it's looking likely that it'll happen sooner rather than later.