The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized SpaceX to provide Starlink satellite internet services in moving vehicles, such as cars, boats, and planes. Owned and operated by SpaceX, Starlink offers the freedom to access the internet from far-flung areas that often lack broadband internet from other sources or have slow and unreliable connections. In some areas, the topography even prevents a steady cellular connection, which further broadens Starlink’s appeal. However, the service has seen its fair share of critics, with many users complaining about a lack of customer service.
Earlier this year, SpaceX took the first step towards offering a fast broadband connection on planes when it inked a deal with Texas-based aviation startup JSX to offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Delta has also confirmed that it has been testing Starlink internet on its planes, and more such tie-ups with other aviation companies and airlines might follow in the future as well. Starlink currently has more than 2,000 functional satellites in orbit, with plans to launch at least 4,200 as part of its plans to become the world’s largest provider of satellite internet services.
The FCC this week greenlit SpaceX’s plans to offer satellite internet in cars, boats, and planes. The authorization is expected to help SpaceX fast-track its plans to provide on-the-go internet in moving vehicles. In a statement, the FCC said that the approval was based on “the growing demand for broadband communications to vessels, land vehicles, and aircraft.” According to the regulator, the dedicated ESIM (Earth Stations in Motion) terminals will eliminate the need to use FSS (Fixed Satellite Service) hardware for mobility applications. Interestingly, the approval comes with a major caveat that states SpaceX will have to inform its customers that the service will have no interference protection. That’s due to other satellite internet operators also sharing the same 12GHz band, possibly interfering with one another’s services.
The FCC’s decision comes more than a year after SpaceX originally applied for regulatory approval for its ESIM service. The application was filed in March 2021, with SpaceX asking the regulator for a license to operate Starlink terminals on Earth Stations in Motion. The approval allows SpaceX to operate consumer and enterprise Ku-band ESIMs in the 12GHz band.
Earlier this year, SpaceX started offering Starlink’s satellite internet connections for RVs, but the service isn’t meant for moving vehicles. Instead, it is intended to be used by campers in areas without usable internet services. The company also sells a ‘portability add-on’ that lets users take their Starlink service with them to any supported location.