FCC approves SpaceX Starlink service for vehicles, boats and planes

FCC approves SpaceX Starlink service for vehicles, boats and planes

The Starlink logo is visible in the background of a silhouette of a woman holding a mobile phone.

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The Federal Communications Commission has authorized SpaceX to provide Starlink satellite internet to moving vehicles, a key step for Elon Musk’s company to further expand the service.

“Allow a new class of [customer] terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing demands of users who now require connectivity on the go, whether driving an RV across the country, move cargo from Europe to a US port or on a domestic voyage or an international flight,” FCC International Bureau Chief Tom Sullivan wrote in the authorization released Thursday.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the FCC’s decision.

Starlink is SpaceX’s network of satellites in low Earth orbit, designed to provide high-speed Internet access anywhere in the world. SpaceX has launched about 2,700 satellites to support the global network, with the base price for the service costing users $110 per month. In May, SpaceX told the FCC that Starlink had more than 400,000 subscribers.

SpaceX signed early deals with commercial air carriers in preparation for the move: It struck pacts with Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private charter provider JSX to provide Wi-Fi on planes. So far, SpaceX has been allowed to conduct a limited number of flight tests, deeming the aviation Wi-Fi market “ripe for an overhaul.”

The FCC authorization also includes connection to ships and vehicles such as tractor-trailers and motor homes, as SpaceX requested last year to expand its services to fixed customers. SpaceX had already rolled out a version of its service called “Starlink for RVs,” with additional “portability” charges. But portability is not the same as mobility, which the FCC ruling now allows.

The FCC has imposed conditions on Starlink service in motion. SpaceX is required “to accept any interference received from current and future licensed services,” and new investments in Starlink “will bear the risk that operations may be subject to additional conditions or requirements” from the FCC.

The decision did not resolve a broader regulatory dispute between SpaceX and Dish Network and RS Access, an entity backed by billionaire Michael Dell, over use of the 12 gigahertz band – a range of frequencies used for broadband communications. bandaged. The FCC continues to analyze whether the band can support both ground and space services, with SpaceX pushing for the regulator to issue a ruling.

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