Delta Air Lines Tests Starlink Internet Connectivity

Delta Air Lines is exploring the possibility of using Starlink, the SpaceX broadband technology, to offer internet connectivity onboard flights. The carrier has already conducted tests and held talks with the California-based company, which is headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Getting good WiFi onboard flights has always been a source of frustration for both passengers and airlines. This could change for Delta Air Lines after the carrier expressed its interest in SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet technology.

According to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, the airline has already conducted exploratory testing and talks with Elon Musk’s company without going into any specifics.

SpaceX

Starlink provides internet connectivity through satellite technology. Photo: SpaceX

Last June, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and Commercial Sales, claimed that the company was “in talks with several” airlines.

Hofeller said,

“We have our own aviation product in development … we’ve already done some demonstrations to date and [are] looking to get that product finalized to be put on aircraft in the very near future.”

Delta’s current onboard internet connectivity is provided by Viasat, a satellite internet company that also offers connectivity onboard United and American flights.

SpaceX has developed a special aviation antenna that is undergoing testing, with the company working on gaining certification with “various aircraft.”

Streaming services for every passenger

During a panel at the Satellite 2022 conference in March, SpaceX’s Jonathan Hofeller revealed the company’s goal of offering high-bandwidth WiFi connectivity to every passenger.

Hofeller said,

“Connectivity on airplanes is something we think is ripe for an overhaul. The expectation has changed faster than the technology has changed. We’re designing a service where every single passenger on that plane can stream simultaneously.”

Starlink reached the milestone of 250,000 subscribers last month as demand for its services shot up during the pandemic. It also revealed that it manufactures almost eight satellites a day at its Redmond, Washington, facility.

There are currently almost 2,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, with the company targeting a total of 30,000 to build a complete ‘constellation.’

Elon Musk tweeted in June that Starlink was focusing on gaining certification for the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, as these two aircraft “serve the most number of people.”

The company also filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to connect aircraft to Starlink, noting that, “no longer are users willing to forego connectivity while on the move, whether driving a truck across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a US port or while on a domestic or international flight.”

Delta B737-900

It could be a number of years before we see Starlink connectivity onboard commercial flights. Photo: Getty Images

SpaceX has received a lot of demand for its satellite internet services from various markets, including education and cellular backhaul. The company also made the headlines recently after offering internet connectivity in Ukraine.

Are you a Starlink subscriber? Do you think it would be a game-changer for onboard connectivity? Let us know in the comments.

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