DALLAS – Elon Musk’s satellite internet company, Starlink, looks to deliver wireless connectivity aboard airplanes. Delta Air Lines (DL) is testing the idea.
Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian stated in a recent interview reported by the Wall Street Journal that the Atlanta-based airline has held talks with SpaceX’s internet unit, Starlink, and conducted exploratory tests of Starlink’s technology. DL is calling its review of Starlink’s internet services nothing more than “exploratory tests.”
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite-based internet infrastructure has gradually gained traction since the launch of the first 60 of its tiny satellites in early 2019. Musk’s SpaceX has now deployed approximately 1,800 satellites into space, and 250,000 users have signed up for its broadband internet services in 25 countries, with new users and supported nations being added on a daily basis, according to Business Standard.
Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink says its service “enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet.” The company states that current ground users can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms.
Business users can expect download speeds of 150-500 Mbps and latency of 20-40ms. There’s no information yet regarding WIFI speed benchmarks on commercial aircraft.
SpaceX and Commercial Aviation
SpaceX has long hoped to enter the commercial airline sector as the go-to satellite internet provider. Internet access on airplanes has been a long source of frustration among travelers.
At the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit last year, SpaceX VP Jonathan Hofeller described the company’s plans for commercializing Starlink, outlining an “aviation product” that it has been testing. The Starlink product, according to Hofeller, would be superior to typical satellite internet offerings due to its “global mesh” of satellites that provide connectivity in any area.
At around the time Hofeller first indicated the company’s ambitions to get into the aviation internet service business, Elon Musk tweeted that Starlink was focusing on internet provision certification on the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320 as these aircraft served the most people.
Featured image: Delta Air Lines N359NW Airbus A320. Photo: Mateo Skinner/Airways