Starlink satellite Internet is now legal on moving planes, ships, cars, and RVs, as long as SpaceX is fine with 'interference'
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted a conditional approval to Elon Musk's SpaceX company for providing in-motion satellite Internet via its Starlink service. Not that SpaceX hasn't been providing and even advertising its Starlink for RVs service for a good while now. The option prices active coverage at US$135 a month with the disclaimer that the service "is not designed for use while in motion" because of the pending FCC nod, despite that some of its subscribers are often using it while on the move.
Now that the Earth Stations in Motion (ESIM) satellite Internet service of SpaceX is out of the legal grey zone, Starlink can be used on commercial planes, recreational vehicles or boats, cruise ships, and numerous other moving objects. According to the FCC's memo:
Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX's satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a U.S. port, or while on a domestic or international flight.
The condition, however, is that SpaceX must be willing to "accept any interference received from current and future services authorized." Elon Musk's company has been wrangling with aspiring cellular network carrier DISH which says that Starlink's use of ESIMs may interfere with its own satellite antenna signal. On the other hand, the interference acceptance caveat sounds like a win for the intense FCC lobbying effort of DISH that welcomes SpaceX to use the 12GHz band for satellite Internet, as long as it is willing to accept that it will share the spectrum with DISH's upcoming terrestrial 5G network.
SpaceX balks at the idea in its turn, saying in court filings that a two-way 5G network might cause interference, despite the scientific research that DISH funded. Elon Musk's space exploration company even sent an email to Starlink subscribers last week, urging them to petition the FCC and warning that otherwise the 12GHz spectrum sharing might render Starlink's Internet service "unusable" at some point:
Today we ask for your support in ending a lobbying campaign that threatens to make Starlink unusable for you and the vast majority of our American customers.
The petition to block DISH's advances on the matter before the FCC has so far been signed by more than 3,000 Starlink subscribers who flooded its inbox. The wording of the FCC's in-motion Internet approval, however, gives it a lot of flexibility over future 12GHz sharing decisions, and spells further fights for SpaceX on that front.
200Mbps from a @SpaceX #Starlink terminal mounted to a @Tesla #ModelX while driving down the freeway at 100km/h. Many thanks to @Jays200 for awesome steel fabrication.— Harald Murphy (@harald_murphy) December 21, 2021
Can’t wait for full Starlink roaming ability @elonmusk pic.twitter.com/ox21WyQGhZ