High-speed Internet on the plane: Musk is significantly expanding Starlink

Billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite internet Starlink is getting more features. The network should be available on airplanes and on smartphones as early as 2023.

The rocket company SpaceX has launched 54 new satellites for the Internet service Starlink into orbit. (Photo: SpaceX)

The SpaceX company set a record with the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral spaceport. The rocket launched over the weekend has been reused for the 15th time, a SpaceX employee told Handelsblatt. That had never happened before. SpaceX has managed to significantly reduce space travel costs by using rockets multiple times.

The actual goal of the rocket launch, however, was the expansion of the Starlink satellite internet operated by SpaceX. 54 new satellites were launched into low earth orbit by the Falcon rocket. There, billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket company already operates a network of more than 3,000 satellites that bring fast internet connections to large parts of the world.

With the latest launch, the number of satellites launched by Starlink is 3,612, according to industry service Spaceflightnow.

And the offer is to be expanded further. SpaceX announced a new version under the name “Starshield”, which is particularly aimed at military customers. “While Starlink is designed for consumer and enterprise use, Starshield is intended for government use,” SpaceX said.

In contrast to the existing Starlink systems, Starshield will offer even stronger encryption, SpaceX announced. It is also possible to combine Starshield with other satellite networks.

But the interaction with other systems had recently been repeatedly criticized by US military circles. “They tend to set up interfaces, proprietary interfaces that don’t necessarily play well with others,” said Rogan Shimmin of the US Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit at a recent conference — though without naming SpaceX. The space company has been working with the US Department of Defense for years. SpaceX seems to want to respond to the criticism of the military with Starshield.

Starlink should work with ordinary smartphones

At the same time, SpaceX wants to make the Starlink satellite internet usable for smartphones in the future. So far, customers have had to set up small satellite dishes to get reception. In the future, standard smartphones should be sufficient.

The US communications regulator FCC has approved the launch of up to 7,500 of the latest generation of SpaceX satellites. The company had originally applied for the deployment of up to 30,000 satellites. The FCC said the number was capped to “address concerns about space debris and space safety.”

Starlink cooperates with the US subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile US, to make satellite Internet usable for mobile phone customers. The first test users for the new system are to be activated in the course of 2023. However, Elon Musk announced that Starlink is actively looking for customers in other countries.

SpaceX also disclosed the technical details of the new system in a further application to the FCC. The technology should therefore enable smartphones to “voice, messages and basic surfing on the Internet surfing at theoretical top speeds of up to 3.0 megabits per second (Mbps) or 7.2 Mbps upload and up to 4.4 Mbps /s or 18.3 Mbit/s in the downlink,” says the 60 -page application (application as a PDF document).

Video calls and streaming on the plane

In addition, SpaceX presented an extension of Starlink, which should make it possible to use it in airplanes. The company charges $150,000 for the hardware needed to connect a jet to Starlink, with monthly costs for the service ranging from $12,500 to $25,000 per month.

Deliveries to aerospace customers are scheduled to begin “mid-2023,” SpaceX said. The company is already asking interested customers to pay a deposit of $5,000.

The Internet speed will be around 350 Mbit/s, SpaceX announced. “Passengers will be able to engage in activities previously not possible in-flight, including video calls, online gaming, virtual private networking, and other high-speed activities,” SpaceX said.

“We believe that in-flight connectivity is ripe for an overhaul,” SpaceX vice president Jonathan Hofeller said at a recent conference. “Our approach to connectivity in the sky is similar to that at home: you walk into your house and the internet just works. That’s quite easy. It’s a high speed,” Hofeller said.

The US provider Gogo currently uses around 80 percent of all Internet connections offered in aircraft, estimates by the US bank Morgan Stanley. With Starlink entering the business, that could change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s