FCC clears SpaceX to put its Starlink satellite WiFi in vehicles

Space-based internet is coming to planes, trains and automobiles. Boats too!

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VORZEL, UKRAINE - MAY 5: A person looks at a smartphone near a SpaceX Starlink internet terminal installed on a flower bed on May 5, 2022 in Vorzel, Ukraine. During the Russian large-scale invasion of Ukraine Vorzel, an urban-type village in Kyiv Oblast, was shelled and then occupied by Russian troops in late February 2022. Until March 9, Vorzel was blocked by Russian troops, leaving most houses without electricity, heat and water. It was only on March 9 that evacuation of local residents began. On April 1, the Armed Forces of Ukraine released Vorzel. The communities northwest of Kyiv were square in the path of Russia’s devastating but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital with forces deployed from Belarus, a Russian ally. (Photo by Taras Podolian/Gazeta.ua/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

SpaceX's satellite internet service is officially going mobile after the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday authorized the company to provide its Starlink WiFi service to vehicles. SpaceX already offers Starlink home internet, which left beta last October.

"We agree with SpaceX... that the public interest would benefit by granting with conditions their applications," The FCC wrote in its authorization letter. "Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a U.S. port, or while on a domestic or international flight."

Starlink had already begun expanding its terrestrial footprint, even before the FCC decision, installing receiver dishes at Tesla Supercharger stations, raising prices and unveiling a $500/month Premium service tier. SpaceX has also recently announced partnerships with Delta and Hawaiian Airlines to potentially offer the service aboard their aircraft. 

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SpaceX, and CEO Elon Musk, have also played the hero in recent months by offering an "internet bridge" to volcano-devastated Tonga and providing Starlink terminals to the Ukraine government — a generous offer that was, like most of Musk's ventures, footed by the American taxpayer. The internet service — more specifically, the massive constellation of microsatellites in Low Earth Orbit that enable it — has also drawn condemnation from astronomers worldwide who argue that the highly-reflective satellites, of which there currently more than 2,200 in orbit and which Musk wants 40,000 more of, are grossly interfering with the operation of ground-based telescopes.

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