SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink will soon be available on select airplanes with the official launch of Starlink Aviation next year, the company has announced. It claims the service will offer internet speeds of up to 350Mbps to each plane equipped with its Aero Terminal, which it says is fast enough for video calls, online gaming, “and other high data rate activities.”
It’s certainly a big leap up from the typical speeds offered by most in-flight Wi-Fi. OneZero reports that most flights either use air-to-ground systems which top out at around 10Mbps per flight (and only work while flying over land), while current satellite systems typically offer between 30Mbps and 100Mbps. Since these speeds are per plane, actual speeds can vary depending on the number of passengers using the internet in each flight.
Support pages on SpaceX’s site claim that its internet connections will be available throughout taxi, takeoff, flight over both land and water, and landing, with latency as low as 20ms. “Starlink Aviation will have global coverage,” an FAQ reads. “Since the satellites are moving in low-earth orbit, there are always satellites overhead or nearby to provide a strong signal at high latitudes and in polar regions — unlike with geo-stationary satellites.” Deliveries are expected to start in mid-2023.
On a recent test flight, Aviacionline reports that Starlink Aviation was able to offer 100Mbps internet speed onboard. The demonstration was conducted on a flight between Burbank and San José, California by JSX, which in April announced it would be one of the first air carriers to adopt the inflight internet service.
In September, JSX CEO Alex Wilcox said he expects to start making it available to passengers this month, and have each one of the company’s planes 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 offer its Starlink internet service to planes. In March 2021, SpaceX filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission to authorize Starlink to be used on moving platforms. “This is for aircraft, ships, large trucks & RVs,” Musk tweeted shortly afterwards. Since then, we’ve seen Starlink Maritime announced for boats and Starlink RV for mobile homes.