SpaceX Launches Starlink Aviation Product for Satellite Internet to Private Jets

One of the company’s aviation-specific flat Starlink antennas is seen above an aircraft.

SpaceX

SpaceX launched its aviation-specific Starlink satellite internet service on Tuesday, with by Elon Musk company looking to expand further into the in-flight WiFi market.

The company charges $150,000 for the hardware needed to connect a jet to Starlink, with monthly service charges ranging between $12,500 a month and $25,000 a month. Deliveries to aviation customers are expected to “begin in mid-2023,” the company said, and reservations require an upfront payment of $5,000.

SpaceX advertises “global coverage” through a flat panel antenna that customers would install on an aircraft. SpaceX said it is seeking Federal Aviation Administration certificates for a variety of aircraft, most of which are typically owned and operated as private jets.

As for quality of service, SpaceX says Starlink aviation customers can expect speeds of up to 350 Megabits per second, “enabling all passengers to access the internet with streaming capability at the same time.”

“Passengers can engage in previously non-functional activities in flight, including video calling, online gaming, virtual private networks and other high data rate activities,” SpaceX said on its Starlink website.

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SpaceX will not install the antennas, however, noting that customers “will need to arrange installation with a vendor.”

But the company’s aviation service doesn’t require a long-term contract, with SpaceX saying that “all plans include unlimited data” and “the hardware is under warranty for as long as you subscribe to the service.”

One of the company’s aviation-specific flat Starlink antennas is seen above an aircraft.

SpaceX

SpaceX has signed the first agreements with commercial air carrierssigning agreements with Hawaiian Airlines And JSX semi-private charter provider to provide Wi-Fi on aircraft. So far SpaceX has been approved to conduct a limited amount of flight tests, see the aviation Wi-Fi market as “ripe for an overhaul”.

This latest offering marks a direct challenge to the leading in-flight connectivity provider Go Go. But William Blair analyst Louie DiPalma said in a note to investors on Wednesday that the Starlink product “appears to be too big and too expensive to challenge” Gogo’s position in the small to mid-size business jet market and that “this it will likely come as a welcome relief to Gogo’s investors.”

“Starlink’s entry into the business jet connectivity market has put pressure on Gogo’s shares. We expect Gogo to be able to fend off the competition with its unique air-to-ground cellular network. Gogo is the leading connectivity provider in the fly for business jets and serves over 6,600 business jets with its cellular network and another 4,500 aircraft with [satellite] connectivity,” DiPalma said.

Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note that while Starlink’s “premium price” is expected to have “relatively little impact on Gogo in the near term,” SpaceX’s new service “highlights competitive growth
intensity in a market that Gogo has historically dominated with over 80% market share.”

Starlink is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected Internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to provide high-speed Internet anywhere on the planet. SpaceX has launched nearly 3,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, and the service had about 500,000 subscribers as of June. The company has consistently raised capital to fund the development of both Starlink and its Starship next-generation rocket, with $2 billion brought in this year alone.

The FCC has cleared SpaceX to provide the Starlink mobile Internet servicewith the company’s product offering now including services for residential, commercial, RV, marine and airline customers.

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