The FCC has given permission to SpaceX to connect Starlink to boats, aircraft, and other moving vehicles.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted SpaceX the go-ahead for its Starlink satellite broadband platform to connect to moving vehicles of various kinds, such as boats, aircraft, trucks, RVs, and other forms of mobile homes. This would essentially pave the way for a new service route for Starlink.

To provide household and commercial users with fixed satellite data services, the service currently makes use of a network of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO). Starlink has over 400,000 clients all over the globe, the vast majority of them are in the residential category.

The FCC’s international bureau head, Tom Sullivan, said in the order that “Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system would increase the range of broadband capabilities to satisfy the expanding user needs that now require access while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, transferring a cargo from Europe to a US port or while on a domestic or international flight.” Sullivan’s comments were made in response to the FCC’s decision to authorize a new class of terminal (PDF).

Following SpaceX’s proposal earlier this year for blanket-licensed Earth Stations in Motion, or ESIMs, the permission order that was issued last week follows suit.

Conditions that cause interference

Spectrum in the range of 12.2-12.7GHz is included in SpaceX’s proposal for ESIMs. This portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is more often referred to as the 12GHz band. Dish Network and RS Access, a business that is sponsored by Michael Dell’s investment group, challenged SpaceX’s intended usage of the 12GHz spectrum due to interference concerns; however, the FCC is currently reviewing it and has not yet made a final judgment on the matter.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reached the conclusion that the authorization of operations in the 12GHz band serves the public interest. This is due to the fact that it will extend broadband into regions that are now unserved or underserved. In order to get clearance from the FCC, SpaceX ESIM operations “must accept any interference received from both existing and future services approved” in the 12GHz band. Additionally, SpaceX ESIM operations “must not cause detrimental interference to any authorized service, whether licensed or not,” as described by the FCC’s Sullivan.

Jeffrey Blum, the chief of public policy for Dish, stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the company was still reviewing the FCC order but that it was pleased that SpaceX must “accept any and all interference from future 5G operations and that they must clearly disclose such limitations to their customers.”

Starlink will be allowed to seek connection agreements more aggressively in areas such as aviation if it receives authorization from the FCC. This market is currently covered by rivals such as Viasat and Hughes Network Systems. SpaceX has not indicated when it wants to go through with a plan to support moving vehicles. These other firms depend on a significantly smaller number of geosynchronous satellites, also known as GEO satellites, which are located in higher orbits than Starlink’s LEO constellation. However, Hughes Network Systems is also a player in the LEO market because of the collaboration it has formed with OneWeb and the investment it has made in the company.

Deals have already been reached by SpaceX with the airline Hawaiian Airlines as well as the independent air carrier JSX. It has been claimed that Delta Airlines has conducted some testing with SpaceX/Starlink.

Source: Lightreading


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