back to article SpaceX's Starlink service lands first aviation customer

SpaceX has signed its first Starlink contract with an air carrier, and despite recent news it isn't Delta.  Semi-private airline JSX will be outfitting 100 of its planes with Starlink receivers, providing in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers in a manner that JSX said won't require logging in "or other complexities associated with …

  1. steviebuk Silver badge

    Put that laptop away

    So on my flight to Jamaica over 2 years ago they said roughly "Put your laptops away for take off and duration of the flight" so I played on my Switch instead. So is this "Make sure your mobile is in airplane mode" all because of the claim it might interfere with the system void now then? If wifi is OK?

    1. scubaal

      Re: Put that laptop away

      it was always bullshit - otherwise planes would be dropping out of the sky all the time.

      Are we seriously saying the safety of every plane in the worlkd requires on every one of its 400+ passengers putting their 3 devices into flight mode?

      There was never any evidence for interference.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Put that laptop away

        Perhaps they just want you "not distracted" during take off and landing, in case something does happen. Plus heavy unsecured objects have a tendency to fly about during hard landings, I don't believe that it has to do with the electronics or avionics.

        1. bpfh
          Alien

          Re: Put that laptop away

          They don't want any extra signals being picked up by the aliens that could be roaming around up near the Bermuda Triangle...

        2. Marty McFly Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Put that laptop away

          Avoiding distraction during takeoff and landing has always been the reason. Plus the potential for loose debris should a bad thing happen.

          I agree, it is a prudent safety concern during those critical flight phases.

          The pissy thing is the industry has always said it is interference with airplane systems. Hogwash. Just call it what it is, don't lie about it.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Put that laptop away

        The specific interference issue around mobiles which caused the ban was airborne units jamming ground stations over a wide area. Nothing to do with in-aircraft systems at all

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Put that laptop away

        There are a couple of reasons they ask you to put devices away.

        1) Take off and landing are when an emergency is most likely to occur and when your going to have the least time to prepare. They are legally required to do everything they can to make sure passengers are not distracted during these times.

        2) The radio systems used to assist a plane during landing are very simple. Older versions of those systems were easily confused by modern electronics emitting on higher (but harmonic) frequencies. Modern aircraft (and updated older aircraft) are more shielded against emissions coming from the passenger cabin (or hold) than were the aircraft in operation 10 years ago.

        There have been some good studies of interference in aircraft, that all showed risks but aviation is (by necessity) a risk averse industry. Flying an aircraft is difficult even with modern aircraft (perhaps even more so) and anything that distracts the pilot is potentially fatal. Applying the measures of risk that you are used to from tasks like driving, home computing or (as the telecoms industry in the US found recently) telecoms to aviation is not sensible, because the risk profile is completely different.

        1. sniperpaddy

          Re: Put that laptop away

          yep. The Risk value is low, but the Hazard value is very high, so it gets top priority.

          Translation= it most likely will not go wrong, but if it does go wrong, the shit will hit the fan in a major way, so cover cover your arse.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Put that laptop away

      Some planes have had WiFi for some time. This just switches which satellites eventually connect the service. This has been approved for quite a while. There's also no problem using phones on planes (to the plane, actually getting the phone to do something you want is harder). The only part of their recommendation that makes any sense is asking people to put laptops away on takeoff, as it's more likely you'll drop it or get into a situation where the table causes a problem. When you're in stable flight, it's fine.

      Although it's a comedy series, I must repeat this joke from Cabin Pressure that explains the situation:

      Carolyn: Finally, please keep your mobile phone switched off for the duration of the flight. Obviously they have no effect whatsoever on our navigational equipment, or we wouldn't let you have them, but they drive me up the wall. Thank you and enjoy your flight.

      1. sebacoustic

        Cabin pressure

        What a gem that was: the best written comedy series bar none I think.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Put that laptop away

        Your assertion that there is no problem using cell phones on planes is incorrect. As a pilot, that annoying repeating pattern you hear when you put a cellphone near a radio receiver- on older airframes we can hear that over our headsets if a passenger has a cell phone in a seat near one of the rf aerials on the aircraft. Its incredibly annoying listening to that for the whole of an 8 hour flight.

        So many comments here are "I have never flown a plane but based on my lack of experience it must be made up"

      3. mantavani

        Re: Put that laptop away

        Brilliant.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Put that laptop away

      The cell phone restriction used to make sense, and might still in some places. Go back in time and there were fewer cells, the cells were bigger and the phones transmitted with more power to get the required range. Slightly later the bottom of valleys became valuable mast sites so that hills would block signals from one cell interfering with the neighbouring ones. Now put a phone one a plane where the altitude gives it has good reception for multiple cells. One cell assigns a set of time slots to the phone and the phone then fills that time slot in multiple cells simultaneously making that those time slots unusable in cells where the phone was not assigned any time at all.

    4. SnOOpy168

      Re: Put that laptop away

      On a biz trip, i will be more than happy that if by playing with my smart devices during take off, we will screw the navigation and end up in Bali for a nice 72 hours layover . ehehhehe

  2. that one in the corner Bronze badge

    CC from Westchester County, New York

    is going to find this hard to believe.

  3. msobkow Silver badge

    For the life of me, I read that as "lands on first customer..." :)

    1. Mr. V. Meldrew

      May I point you in the direction of "Specsavers" - (Corner of Morecambe Arndale Centre, closed Wednesdays). :-)

      [Other Optician brands are available.]

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Joke

        Why? Do you think he's got Covid?

  4. rg287 Silver badge

    Competition

    “Increasingly stiff competition from Kuiper”?

    Is this the same Kuiper which has no satellites and has just signed 80-odd launches on rockets which don’t exist yet?

    Maybe Kuiper will “do it second and do it right”, leapfrogging StarLink. But we’ll have to wait till 2024 (at the earliest) to find that out. For the time being they’re no competition, they’re just trolling the regulatory process to piss on SpaceX’s chips.

  5. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

    Since they have to get this approved for each and every model of aircraft, maybe they should look into the marine sector as well, since I don't think you need individual approvals for marine stuff.

    Should be easier to get the paperwork sorted, and probably easier hardware design as well, since marine craft tend to travel alot slower compared to aircraft (or even slower then most road vehicles, for that matter).

    1. Grey_Kiwi

      Dear BOFH in training,

      You would be amazed - and possibly horrified - how many ships rely on cell-phones for data communications and the same phone and UHF/VHF radio for voice, none of which is any use more than a few dozen kilometers offshore. By and large their impecunious and/or tight-fisted owners see no need to splash money on open ocean data communications, except grudgingly providing the AIS beacons they are legally obligated to have.

      The market for always-on high speed Internet access at sea is in fact quite small - much less than the airline sector. I'm sure it will happen, but it will take a while, SpaceX will make a lot more money much sooner by getting the major airlines hooked up.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Cruise ships are the major customer, and for the most part they have decade-long contracts.

        Which is why they tend to be very slow and expensive.

        Most likely many will switch to Starlink (or at least, threaten it), but it's going to be a really specialist usage.

        3000-5000 end users is going to be far more data usage than a single dish is designed to handle, so there will be some level of customisation or line bonding of multiple dishes required.

        1. Oh Matron!

          But that's the great thing: You can bring starlink onboard with you and launch your own paid for service :-) Just make sure you get a decent balcony :-)

        2. rg287 Silver badge

          3000-5000 end users is going to be far more data usage than a single dish is designed to handle, so there will be some level of customisation or line bonding of multiple dishes required.

          And likely bonded across Starlink and OneWebT OneWeb is of course ISP-oriented, but a cruise ship is serving more users than a lot of small WISPs and a very worthwhile B2B contract for them. Between say, four antennaes (a Starlink and OneWeb antennae at each end of the ship) you'd likely gain an order of magnitude more bandwidth than your average liner has available at the moment.

    2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Telenor Maritim

      If Starlink has the capacity for cruise ships and ferries, and marinised terminals become available, it will be a good thing.

      Telenor Maritim provide services now with a variety of technologies, and I can say from personal experience that they have great potential for improvement.

  6. Mr. V. Meldrew

    Komputer Korner...

    That nice Mr Musk, proprietor of "Komputer Korner" has kindly donated some spare Internet gear to our good friends in Ukraine. Hopefully he may dig into the shop petty cash tin and find some loose change as well.

    That pesky French President micro-brain appears to have fallen out with Mr. Musk. Well that's the French for you and between them and our German friends they collude in propping up Putin's bank balance by buying around £1 Billion (1,000,000,000) of energy daily from the murdering scumbag.

    As for me, I can't really afford a Starlink set up. If I could then it's Komputer Korner for me. (Korner of Morecambe Arndale Centre, closed Wednesdays).

    And, for the register, no I'm not a Muskovite (gettit?) but a man who can see the good that many businesses bring to those in dire and desperate need.

  7. AlanSh

    Oh no - not again.

    I can just imagine every third passenger shouting into their mobile phone - "Yes, I'm on an airplane. Isn't it wonderful" - just as they used to do on trains.

  8. sreynolds Silver badge

    What does this mean?

    The kiddies next door are going to be streaming tiktok videos next to me on the plane? How can this be a good thing?

  9. xyz

    I love Elon

    Typing this in the middle of nowhere, running off solar, gf on Teams and Starlink slurping 300mb/s of much internetness without sweating it. Best product ever. I may be biased!!

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I love Elon

      "Best product ever. I may be biased!!"

      Ok, now pack up your kit and try it in a big city. I doubt you'd see anywhere near the same bandwidth and, of course, you'd be blocked by the system for being outside you designated usage zone. If you'd like to add this new area to your account, you can sign up to be notified when a slot becomes available and they've decided how much of a premium they are going to charge.

      For people in the out and beyond, it might be a good option, but that doesn't mean there are enough customers in those places for the system to be able to pay for itself. The plan is for a 42,000 satellite constellation and the need to replace those sats every 5 years. This is in addition to the 3-4% infant failure and the need to get Starship working to be able to launch the newer versions of the satellites in bigger batches. The issue seems to be volume as Falcon Heavy hasn't been mentioned as launch vehicle.

      The Ukraine deal is straight PR. To knock off service in the area, the enemy only needs to identify the downlink site and lob a few molotov cocktails at it. There would be no need to go after the subscriber dishes or the satellites.

  10. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Alien

    Curious how this will all work...

    Starlink relays communication ground-satellite-ground. It does not relay ground-satellite-satellite-satellite-satellite-ground. And with low earth orbit satellites that means there isn't a lot of surface coverage per satellite.

    Starlink may not be a viable solution for Internet access in extremely remote areas like the middle of an ocean. Probably fine for cruise ships which typically stay close to ports for daily visits, but might not be good for intercontinental maritime or aviation traffic.

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