Elon Musks SpaceX has filed paper work with the FCC of the United States to test its satellite based internet system on Business Jets. “SpaceX seeks experimental authority for operation of one user terminal aboard each of up to five private jets while they are (1) on the ground at an airport, and (2) in flight over the United States (including its territories and territorial waters),” the company wrote in a Nov. 6 FCC filing.
The testing is planned to take up to two years and if successful will revolutionize internet connectivity aboard aircraft. Currently internet service has become fairly common on Business and Commercial aircraft albeit the speeds and coverage vary. Owners of business jets either have to choose between a ground based system or current satellite services or both. Installation costs for ground based internet service from Gogo start at $85,000 USD plus install costs. If owners choose both ground based and satellite systems you can plan on doubling the hardware and install costs.
Once installed owners will have to pay for the service, ground based unlimited plans start at $1,995 per month. For the budget conscious jet owner other plans offered come in at $895 which allows for 100 Megabytes of data or about 8 minutes of streaming video of average resolution if you can get a strong connection.
Satellite based coverage would make the most sense for globe trotting aircraft to stay connected while crossing oceans or operating in remote areas. Recently Innotech Aviation of Montreal installed a system onboard a Global Express at the cost of $800,000 USD with a monthly subscription fee of $6,000 for unlimited use. The speed tests showed 10 Megabytes per second making it the fastest internet available in the air.
My own experience with ground based aircraft internet has been pretty good. However spotty coverage in remote areas of Canada and obviously zero coverage across water leaves aircraft operators to make some tough choices.
A former CEO client of a huge company I would fly regularly would relish the time disconnected while in the air. Once internet was installed others would start to fidget if a WiFi signal was lost in flight.
Starlink Satellite internet starts at $499 for the setup kit plus $99 a month for terrestrial users. Starlink.
However don’t expect too much was the message from Elon as their service was titled. “Better Than Nothing Beta Test” and told users “Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system,” which translates to downloading a full length movie in about 30 minutes.
Starlink is not alone in this space (haha get it) other companies have joined the race to offering internet via satellite. Amazons is developing similar systems as well as India’s Bharti Group.
With all these companies vying for a piece of the action, internet service while flying will only get more affordable.