Getting fast in-flight internet has been one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to air travel — especially in private aviation, where CEOs and executives have to work on the go. Well, Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, now have a solution — fast, premium WiFi for almost any flight, whether it’s a short regional jaunt or an overland route.
SpaceX has rolled out its latest offering through its Starlink Aviation subsidiary to bring high-speed internet to air travel for private jet owners with its new monthly subscription model. Starlink can provide owners with up to 350Mbps internet on each aircraft – strong enough for passengers to join a Zoom call and stream movies in-flight.
“Internet on planes will feel like you’re accessing the internet at home!” Musk continued Twitter about the news. The service will leverage its growing array of satellites, which are in low Earth orbit (LEO) and will enable higher speeds than geostationary satellites (GEO). Private charter providers JSX and Hawaiian Airlines plan to deploy Starlink on their planes when the service goes live. Musk announced in August that SpaceX is also partnering with T-Mobile to offer users access to Starlink satellites for the internet starting next year.
While buyers must subscribe to the monthly service, there’s no long-term contract, so there’s some flexibility and the hardware is covered under warranty as long as you’re an active subscriber.
Despite the excitement surrounding the new product, there are still downsides to the latest technology. One is that the small satellites have less capacity and may struggle to meet customers’ needs when skies are crowded during rush hour. Because the technology is still in its early stages, it has been turned down for subsidies by government regulators. Company executives say there is still a long way to go before the new technology can be widely deployed.
“There are many challenges to getting where we want to be,” Jonathan Hofeller, Starlink’s vice president of commercial sales, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s going to take some time for people to embrace the mentality that JSX and Starlink have.”
SpaceX received official approval from the FCC to advance Starlink back in June and has shown no signs of slowing down.
Membership pricing starts at $12,500 per month and SpaceX continues to take reservations on its website, with a $5,000 requirement to sign up. There is also a one-time hardware installation fee of $150,000. The service is scheduled to go live in mid-2023.