Starlink will soon be able to provide high-speed satellite internet onboard aircraft. The ISP is currently in discussion with “several” airlines. The arrival of Starlink on planes could be a real game changer. Currently, the satellite connection of aircraft is too limited to allow really comfortable use of the internet in the cabin.
for a few years, some airlines offer paid in-cabin internet access on certain trips. You usually have to pay a high price for this access, and if you’ve ever had the opportunity to use it, you’ve probably noticed that the speeds are nothing extraordinary is an understatement. So much so that certain uses of the Internet are simply prohibited.
In particular, you cannot not making an audio or video call, viewing streaming videos, or starting to download a series in the middle of the Atlantic. but that may soon change thanks to Starlink. ISP access offers a throughput of around 150 MB, all with very low latency. For now, airlines that offer in-flight internet access must rely on existing companies such as ViaSat, which has only a small number of satellites placed in very high orbits.
Starlink has been developing special aircraft access for some time
The result ? Latency is a disaster, throughput is “modest” at best, not to mention connection stability on a plane in constant motion. Starlink explains that it is in the process of developing a specific product aimed at “Earth Stations in motion”, as the company likes to call this new type of access – but which could also be suitable for trains, boats or even personal vehicles such as passenger cars. campervans.
The Starlink satellite constellation is by far the most complete project to date, with no real point of comparison. There are already around 1,400 satellites in orbit, which is not that far from the initial bet of deploying a constellation of 1,600 satellites. That number will also continue to increase until the next level of 4,400 satellites – all placed at an altitude between 550 km and 1,300 km.
It is now possible to test this access in beta. But as the first users noticed, it is currently only possible to use access in a delimited geographical area. As a result, it is impossible to take your antenna with you, for example, on vacation. Elon Musk explains that this is not a voluntary limitation, but a feature of Starlink’s operation.
To provide Internet access to stations on the move, Starlink must therefore use new technologies. Last year, the company filed an application with the FCC for these devices. Last Friday, a new request asks the FCC to authorize the implementation of this new system in five American states.
Also read: Starlink threatens to cut internet for subscribers who pirate movies
Starlink can quickly test the system on certain flights in 5 US states
Jonathan Hofeller Vice President of SpaceX responsible for Starlink explains that the ISP “is under discussion with several airlines” : “We have our own aviation product in development… we’ve done some demonstrations so far and we hope to finalize this product for installation on aircraft in the near future”.
But there is still work. The current Starlink constellation does not yet use all the technologies suggested by SpaceX. The connection only works on the continents, because satellites still don’t communicate through laser beams. That’s why Jonathan Hofeller explains that “the next generation of our constellation, under development, will have this connectivity between satellites”.
Jonathan Hofeller adds: “Ultimately, consumers and aircraft passengers want a good experience that geostationary systems simply cannot provide. It is up to each airline to correct this or say that it is in compliance with a system that does not meet the demands of its customers.”
Currently still in beta, Internet access via Starlink satellite is available in France subject to eligibility, for a price of 99 euros per month. It is mandatory to buy, in addition, a kit of 499 euros containing a high-tech satellite dish, as well as the very high-speed router of the service.. In France, this kind of access could help rural areas to bridge the digital divide more quickly.