The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday authorized Elon Musk’s SpaceX to use its Starlink satellite internet network for mobile vehicles, giving the green light to the company’s plans to provide broadband service to commercial airlines, ships and trucks.

Starlink, a fast-growing constellation of in-orbit internet beam satellites, has long sought to expand its customer base from individual broadband users in rural, internet-poor areas to enterprise customers in the potentially lucrative automotive, shipping and aviation sectors.

“Authorizing a new type of terminal for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the reach of broadband capabilities to meet the growing demands of users who now need to connect on the move,” the FCC said in the authorization issued on Thursday. batch.

Since 2019, SpaceX has steadily launched around 2,700 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit and amassed hundreds of thousands of users, many of whom pay $110 (nearly Rs 8,700) per month for $599 (nearly Rs 47,300) out-of-pocket Buy broadband internet. Install the terminal kit.

The Hawthorne, Calif.- space company has focused in recent years on seeking in-flight WiFi from airlines around Starlink, signing the first such deals in recent months with Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private jet service JSX.

“We’re fascinated by the passenger experience,” Jonathan Hofeller, Starlink’s head of commercial sales, said at an aviation conference earlier this month. “We’ll be flying here soon, so hopefully passengers will be amazed by the experience.”

SpaceX has been testing aircraft-tailored Starlink terminals on Gulfstream jets and U.S. military aircraft under an earlier FCC experiment license.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has previously said that under Thursday’s authorization, the types of vehicles that Starlink is expected to use include planes, ships, large trucks and RVs. Musk, who is also CEO of electric car maker Tesla, has said he doesn’t see “connecting Tesla cars to Starlink because our terminals are so big.”

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Competition is fierce in low-Earth orbit satellite internet between SpaceX, satellite operator OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper, a of e- giant Amazon, which plans to launch a version of its own broadband network later this year. The first prototype satellite.

© Thomson Reuters 2022