Starlink plans to put faster Wi-Fi on commercial airplanes

San Francisco: Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service — Starlink — is in talks with “several” airlines for in-flight Wi-Fi, media reports said.

Since 2018, SpaceX has launched nearly 1,800 Starlink satellites out of the roughly 4,400 it needs to provide global coverage of broadband internet, primarily for rural homes where fibre connections aren’t available.

Starlink is now being expanded to airlines, as SpaceX races to open the broadband network commercially later this year, the Verge reported.

“We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s VP of Starlink and commercial sales, was quoted as saying at the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit on Wednesday.

“We have our own aviation product in development… we’ve already done some demonstrations to date, and looking to get that product finalised to be put on aircraft in the very near future,” he added.

Hofeller said the design for SpaceX’s airline antennas will be very similar to the technology inside its consumer terminals, but “with obvious enhancements for aviation connectivity”, the report said.

The aviation hardware will be designed and built by SpaceX, he noted. The airborne antennas could link with ground stations to communicate with Starlink satellites.

Last year, SpaceX filed plans to test Starlink on five Gulfstream jets. And in March, it sought US Federal Communications Commission approval to use Starlink with vehicles that receive a signal, including cars, trucks, ships and aircraft.

Early last month, Elon Musk also announced that the new Starlink internet service will make web access more affordable for people in remote areas worldwide, including in India.

The satellite broadband company will double the internet speed to 300 Mbps this year.

The company currently promises speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps for the Starlink project that plans to deliver high-speed internet through a network of about 12,000 satellites. The company has already put over 1,200 of its Starlink satellites in orbit.

SpaceX is currently offering the beta version of Starlink on pre-orders in India for a fully refundable deposit of $99.