Elon Musk is taking the reins of another business venture—in-flight wifi.
- Elon Musk’s spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX is dipping its toes into in-flight wifi by launching Starlink satellites.
- Starlink’s goal is to serve aircrafts of all sizes and create a system that can deliver Netflix and YouTube at 30,000 feet with ease.
- Satellite providers Intelsat and Viasat Inc. already dominate the market for aircraft wifi, but Musk is no stranger to try and shake markets up.
Why it’s news
SpaceX recently held a demo for the media aboard a jet operated by its first airline customer, regional carrier JSX. The company had a short flight from Burbank to San Jose, California, to display the new satellites, according to Bloomberg.
Starlink’s broadband comes from a group of low-flying small satellites and signals are delivered sooner. This differs from other companies that use fewer but bigger satellites.
Starlink has launched more than 3,000 satellites and serves over 400,000 subscribers, the company said in recent filings.
An issue for the technology is that smaller satellites have less available capacity and might not be able to meet the needs of larger aircrafts. Because satellites whiz around the globe, only a few may be serving an area such as Atlanta and its busy airport, raising capacity questions, B. Riley Financial said in a note last year, reports Bloomberg.
In April, Starlink announced that it struck deals with JSX and Hawaiian airlines.
“This is a foot in the door for Starlink,” said Roger Entner, telecommunications analyst. “This is the proof of concept. Once it works on JSX it will work everywhere.”
One thing that attracted JSX is the company’s flat antenna. Many satellites have big,bulky dishes, but Starlink’s antenna is not much bigger than a standard pizza box.
Many critics have said they aren’t sure if SpaceX is ready or if they know what they are getting themselves into, but Starlink remains confident in its products.
“There are a lot of challenges to get to where we want to be,” said vice president of Starlink commercial sales, Jonathan Hofeller. “It will take time for people to adopt the mentality that JSX and Starlink have.”