High-Speed Internet For Your Plane? An Elon Musk Comment Reveals Much

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There’s a lot of excitement about SpaceX’s recent launches of its Starlink high-speed internet satellites, which the company plans to launch into low earth orbit by the thousands over the next few years, allowing residents of rural areas across the globe access to the Internet, in some many places, for the first time ever.

And SpaceX already has plans to get permission from the feds to put Starlink receivers onboard moving vehicles, like trains, planes and automobiles. But it’s all more complicated than that, and a remark by SpaceX’s Elon Musk about the potential applications for cars has revealed probably more than he intended to about what it means for our planes.

Before that, it’s important to understand that while Starlink sounds sexy on the surface—high-speed internet across the globe—in reality, it won’t offer all that for a while, and even then, the price for it, while certainly reasonable in our book, won’t be a bargain. Furthermore, a lot of the people most excited by Starlink will be the least likely to get it.

For starters, it’s expensive. There’s a $499 hook up fee, which includes the antenna and router, and then it’s $99 per month after that. High-speed cable or optical internet is available in many places for a fraction of that cost. Moreover, for those urbanistas who might be desirous of a Starlink dish of their own, sorry. Its reach is likely to be limited to rural areas, where the low density of habitation and, hence, bandwidth, is supportable.

As far as our small planes are concerned, it’s not likely to happen soon, or forever. While SpaceX has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to develop the technology for moving vehicles, Musk’s comment, reported in PC World, that it wouldn’t be coming to Tesla automobiles, as Musk said the “terminal” was far too large for a small car. And if it’s too big for a passenger car like a Tesla, then it’s not going to be happening for our small planes any time soon, either.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that this state of affairs changes soon, as the idea of high-bandwidth connected weather in the cockpit sounds amazing, though we do have, with SiriusXM, another great option for that, and one that’s a lot cheaper than a hundred bucks a month, too.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

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