SpaceX is asking the Federal Communications Commission to authorize the operation of equipment extending the company’s Starlink satellite broadband internet service to aircraft, ships and moving vehicles.
Commercial mobile services would represent a new frontier for Starlink, which got its start in Redmond, Wash., and is currently beta-testing its service using fixed antennas. SpaceX’s entry into the mobility market could also complicate matters for Redmond-based Kymeta Corp., a connectivity venture that’s backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
In its application to the FCC, filed on March 5, SpaceX said expanding Starlink availability to moving vehicles throughout the U.S. and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide would serve the public interest. “The urgency to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved areas has never been clearer,” David Goldman, SpaceX’s director of satellite policy, said in the filing.
Goldman said SpaceX’s “Earth Stations in Motion,” or ESIMs, would be “electrically identical” versions of the $499 antenna systems that are already being sold to beta customers. He suggested that they’d be counted among the million end-user stations that have already been authorized by the FCC.
In an online job posting that came to light last week, SpaceX said it’s planning to manufacture “millions of consumer-facing devices” for Starlink service at a factory to be built in Austin, Texas.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet that Starlink’s ESIM terminals would be “much too big” to mount on cars — such as the electric cars that are made by Tesla, the other company that Musk heads — but would be suitable for large trucks and RVs.