SpaceX is seeking regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to connect its fast-growing network of internet-beaming Starlink satellites to cars, trucks, shipping boats and aircrafts. This request marks the biggest step yet towards connecting Starlink to the automotive sector, a potential lucrative line of business that would expand the company's current stationary offerings.
Starlink Requests Approval From the FCC
The Verge reported that on March 5, SpaceX filed a request from FCC for a blanket license authorizing operations of Starlink terminals on so-called Earth Stations in Motion--an umbrella term for cars, trucks, maritime vessels and aircraft.
The request stated that users are no longer willing to forego connectivity while on the move, whether driving a truck across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a US port or while on a domestic or international flight.
According to CNBC, SpaceX Director of Satellite Policy, David Goldman, wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission stating that the application of satellites to automobiles, sea, and air crafts would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX's satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities to moving vehicles throughout the U.S. and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide.
ArsTechnica also reported that the vehicle-mounted terminals will be similar to the Starlink satellite dishes designed for home-internet services, with some key differences. The ESIM terminals could be deployed on passenger cars or pleasure boats.
The ESIM terminal could also be deployed on the ship's masts or the tops of semi-trucks that are not generally accessible to the public. The device is compliant and will not result in exposure levels exceeding the applicable radiation hazard limits.
Elon Musk also Tweeted about the Starlink satellites being installed to one of his company's Telsa cars. Musk stated that the company does not plan to connect Starlink satellites to Tesla cars, as its terminal is much too big. Musk added that the satellites are for aircraft, ships, large trucks and RVs.
Not connecting Tesla cars to Starlink, as our terminal is much too big. This is for aircraft, ships, large trucks & RVs.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 8, 2021
Starlink is SpaceX's capital-intensive project to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, known in the space industry as a "constellation," designed to deliver high-speed internet to consumers worldwide.
With over 1,000 satellites in space, SpaceX's Starlink has a least 10,000 users through an invite-only beta program that started last year. The beta program is currently aimed at rural parts of the U.S. that have little to no internet connectivity. A Starlink kit with an antenna and router costs $499, plus $99 per month for speeds around 70 to 130 Mbps.
The company noted that it will ensure the installation of the vehicle terminals through qualified installers. However, SpaceX did not mention whether those installers would be company employees, it continues to expand Starlink manufacturing and operations.
Throwing a Starlink terminal on a moving vehicle is not a surprising move for SpaceX, which last year asked for an experimental FCC permit to operate Starlink terminals on Gulfstream jets.