Starlink, the satellite internet service of SpaceX wants to provide WiFi service during commercial flights. The billionaire Elon Musk’s company is holding talks with several airlines to be able to do so.
Days ago, Jonathan Hofeller, Vice President of Starlink and SpaceX Commercial Sales, said during the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit that the company is moving forward with its plans to change its satellite-connected broadband network to serve predominantly rural households.
And also he spoke of the more commercial interests that will begin to materialize towards the end of 2021.
”We are in talks with several airlines. We have our own aviation product in development and have already done some demos to date. We hope that this product will be finalized for installation on airplanes in the very near future.” Said Hofeller.
SpaceX began with a beta launch of its Starlink satellites in 2018 to fill the global shortage of broadband internet connections, particularly in rural areas where fiber connections are generally not readily available.
In the beta plan, most Starlink customers pay a one-time fee of $ 499 for a one-time router kit and then $ 99 per month for internet services.
From 2018 to today, nearly 1,800 Starlink satellites have already been launched out of the 4,400 that the company estimates it would need to provide global coverage.
The company’s service is based on a low Earth orbit model, in which the satellites are closer to the planet than the far geostationary orbits of the larger internet satellites that typically provide the network to commercial aircraft.
Satellite internet service is a technology with which SpaceX competes with other giants. For example, Amazon recently announced plans for its own low-orbit mega-constellation with capacity for 3,000 satellites, and OneWeb in the United Kingdom it has already launched 182 of the approximately 640 satellites planned to provide service.
“Overall, passengers and customers want a great experience that (geostationary) systems just can’t provide. So it will depend on each airline if they want to respond to that or if they agree to have a system that does not respond so much to the demand of their customers.” Hofeller said on the panel.
Weeks ago, SpaceX signed an agreement with Google to work as partners providing satellite internet service. Thus, Musk’s company will install Starlink terminals in the technology giant’s cloud data centers around the world.
The agreement between the two companies will allow SpaceX to install ground stations that connect to orbiting satellites in Google Cloud data centers, as reported by CNBC and shared by Google through Twitter.
The objective of this alliance is “offer seamless connectivity to the cloud and internet”, has indicated the company founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Musk’s company will install Starlink stations in Google Cloud data centers located in different parts of the world. This will be possible thanks to the wide availability at a geographical level offered by the company’s satellite internet service. Customers will be able to start using this service by the end of 2021.
The strongest competitor of SpaceX today is the Kuiper project, from Amazon, which seeks to launch more than 3,000 satellites to boost its cloud computing services AWS (Amazon Web Services), although it does not yet have satellites in orbit.
Jeff Bezos’ company has accused Musk’s of moving satellites into the orbit that the Amazon project would occupy. In the meantime, SpaceX has already launched 1,625 satellites, although today around 1,550 are operational. It currently has more than 10,000 customers testing the beta version.