SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service will soon be available on select aircraft with the official launch of Starlink Aviation next year, the company announced. He says the service will provide internet speeds of up to 350 Mbps for every aircraft equipped with its Aero Terminal. According to the company With a latency of just 20 ms, passengers can perform activities that were previously not functional during the flight, such as video calls, online games, virtual private networks and other activities that require high throughput.
On October 18, SpaceX introduced its Starlink Aviation service for high-speed, low-latency inflight internet with worldwide connectivity. The hardware needed to access the Starlink satellite constellation is a new phased array antenna designed specifically for aircraft called the Aero Terminal. It looks like a flat square panel installed on the outside of the aircraft as shown below. Starlink’s low-profile Aero Terminal features an electronically driven phased array antenna, which enables new levels of reliability, redundancy and performance, explains the company.
The Starlink Aviation hardware kit costs $150,000 and is capable of providing wireless Internet access to all passengers on an airplane. The kit includes an Aero Terminal, power supply, 2 wireless access points and harnesses. Internet subscription ranges from $12,500 to $25,000 per month, depending on the needs of the airline. Customers can now reserve internet service and pre-order hardware on SpaceX’s Starlink.com website with an upfront payment of $5,000. SpaceX plans to start providing the service in mid-2023.
SpaceX says that the Starlink Aviation service is capable of providing internet at any altitude around the world’s website.
According to satellite data from astronomer Jonathan McDowell, SpaceX has approximately 3,176 operational Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit that actively provide Internet coverage to more than half a million customers on land, at sea and in the air.
In terms of throughput and latency, the company explains that its tool is capable of transmitting video calls, games and much more from any altitude: Starlink can deliver up to 350 Mbps of throughput to each aircraft, allowing all passengers to access the Internet with capacity streaming simultaneously. With latency of just 20ms, passengers can perform activities that were previously non-functional during the flight, including video calls, online games, virtual private networking and other high-throughput activities.
That’s certainly a big step up from the typical speeds offered by most onboard Wi-Fi. The specialized website OneZero reports that most flights use air-to-ground systems that reach around 10 Mbps per flight (and only work when flying over the ground), while today’s satellite systems generally offer between 30 Mbps and 100 Mbps. As these speeds are per aircraft, actual speeds may vary depending on the number of passengers using the Internet on each flight.
The support pages on SpaceX’s website state that their internet connections will be available throughout the taxi, takeoff, flight over land and water, and landing, with latency as low as 20ms.
Starlink Aviation will have worldwide coverage. As satellites travel in low Earth orbit, there are always satellites above or nearby to provide a strong signal at high latitudes and in the polar regions – unlike geostationary satellites. The service will be available in flight over land and water and on the ground during taxi, takeoff and landing. As long as the equipment is turned on and Starlink has a clear view of the sky, connection is possible.
During a recent test flight, Aviacionline reports that Starlink Aviation was able to provide 100 Mbps internet speed on board. The demo was performed on a flight from Burbank to San Jos, Calif., by JSX, which announced in April that it would be one of the first airlines to adopt inflight internet service.
During last week’s test flight, transmission speeds of over 100 megabits per second were recorded, which is considerably better than the current average for commercial aircraft. The Ookla app measured the speed, which was more than enough to stream videos from on-demand content platforms, as well as participate in video calls from instant messaging platforms and browse online freely.
Although there were only twelve people on board the plane, the use of other devices brought demand to peaks equivalent to a flight with twenty and thirty passengers. That seems small compared to the nearly three hundred or more people a jumbo jet can accommodate. However, technology is changing rapidly and the near-term outlook is very positive.
“I’m thrilled,” said Alex Wilcox, CEO of JSX Air, during the inflight Internet service test. Exceeded my expectations, guaranteed.
The introduction of Starlink satellite service to Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet could be another big step towards the adoption of this type of connectivity by major airlines. The carrier announced that it will equip its Airbus A330-200 and A321-200neo, as well as its future Boeing 787-9, with signal receivers from Elon Musk’s company satellites.
In September, JSX CEO Alex Wilcox said he planned to start making it available to passengers this month and that all of the company’s planes would be equipped with the system by the end of the year. Hawaiian Airlines also announced an agreement with Starlink in April, with installation expected to begin next year.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long discussed the company’s plans to bring its Starlink internet service to planes. In March 2021, SpaceX filed with the Federal Communications Commission to allow Starlink to be used on mobile platforms. It’s for planes, ships, big trucks and motorhomes,” Musk tweeted shortly afterwards. Since then, we’ve seen Starlink Maritime advertised for boats and Starlink RV for mobile homes (or mobile homes).
Some weaknesses of the system
Most satellite Internet services originate from single geostationary satellites orbiting more than 35,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Starlink, in turn, provides high-speed connectivity from a constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit. The devices circle the planet in 90 to 120 minutes. With this, the data transfer time between users and satellites, called latency, is lower.
In this way, Elon Musk’s company is able to provide broadband connection in rural villages that traditionally do not have access to this type of service. This is, in fact, Starlink’s stated main objective, which seeks to bring connectivity to inaccessible areas and provide competitive services where other providers already operate.
However, one of the weaknesses of small satellites is their smaller capacity, which can make it difficult to provide a signal for large aircraft on routes with intense air traffic. SpaceX says the speed at which the system is evolving could offer big short-term improvements.
Recently, US regulators labeled Stalink’s satellites a still-in-development technology when they rejected an $866 million government subsidy for the service. However, the company pointed to the April agreement with Hawaiian Airlines, where it will maintain its planes, as an example of confidence in the sector.
Source: Starlink (1, two3)
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