TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX started accepting preorders Tuesday from high-flying private jet owners willing to pay a hefty price to receive high-speed Starlink services in the air.
Starlink Aviation will cost between $12,500 and $25,000 per month to deliver up to 350 megabits per second (Mbps) low-latency broadband per plane, on top of a one-time $150,000 hardware fee for an “Aero Terminal” to access the satellite broadband network.
That compares to $5,000 per month and a one-time $10,000 hardware cost for similar speeds from Starlink’s maritime service that launched in July.
In the U.S., Starlink’s standard residential service charges customers $110 per month and $599 for hardware for up to 200 Mbps download speeds.
SpaceX says Starlink will enable jetsetters to engage in video calls, online gaming, and other activities “previously not functional” in flight.
“Internet in airplanes will feel same as if you were accessing Internet at home!” Musk tweeted.
Internet in airplanes will feel same as if you were accessing Internet at home! https://t.co/Mfl2ixYnJH
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 19, 2022
According to Musk, the company was able to conduct a “video call on one airplane aloft to Starlink on another, far away, airplane aloft” successfully.
Starlink’s rapidly expanding satellite constellation is in low Earth orbit (LEO), enabling latency as low as 20 milliseconds compared to the 600-millisecond signal lag typical of geostationary (GEO) satellites orbiting 70 times higher.
A LEO network can also extend coverage to polar regions that typically can’t be reached by the GEO satellites used by today’s inflight connectivity (IFC) providers.
Jet service provider JSX has said it plans to offer Starlink on its planes this year, and Hawaiian Airlines expects to provide the service on larger aircraft for transpacific flights to and from Hawaii in 2023.
For Starlink Aviation, SpaceX said work is underway to obtain Federal Aviation Administration licenses to enable the services on 12 types of small jets, including the ERJ-135 and ERJ-145 aircraft that JSX uses.
SpaceX has started accepting $5,000 deposits for Starlink Aviation and expects to begin deliveries in the middle of 2023.
The Aero Terminal’s $150,000 fee does not include installation, which SpaceX says could be installed by the aircraft’s current maintenance organization.
“Starlink’s simplified design enables installations during minimal downtime and combines well with other routine maintenance checks,” the company said.
Starlink Aviation hardware is under warranty for as long as a subscription is active, according to SpaceX, and all plans are free from data usage limits and are not tied to long-term contracts.
Meanwhile, Starlink’s LEO broadband rival OneWeb has been securing aviation partnerships for a network that achieved 260 Mbps download speeds during tests in July, including with inflight connectivity (IFC) provider Gogo to connect business jets in 2024.
OneWeb also has a global distribution deal with GEO fleet operator Intelsat that aims to provide airlines with multi-orbit connectivity solutions.
The British startup announced a similar arrangement Oct. 18 with Panasonic Avionics, an IFC pioneer that leases all of its satellite capacity from multiple GEO operators, including Intelsat.
More than three-quarters of the commercial long-haul market that offers Wi-Fi on planes use services from Panasonic or Intelsat, according to their IFC rival Viasat.
However, the market is transforming as Viasat and Inmarsat seek to consolidate their IFC businesses, Starlink gains traction, and other entrants plot their own LEO networks.