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On March 5th, Elon Musk’s SpaceX project filed a request with the FCC seeking regulatory approval to expand their internet-beaming connectivity. Their request was for a blanket license authorization as they look to move towards beaming Starlink satellites to vehicles. This will include cars, trucks, shipping boats, and even aircraft. The request will allow the company to connect directly with the automotive industry and marks a huge step forward for SpaceX. A highly lucrative one too. Until now the company’s main focus has been to provide connectivity in rural out of signal locations. The leap from stationary to mobile has always been on the cards but it now seems legitimately closer.

Starlink’s latest operation will utilize mobile vehicles as Earth Stations in Motion Terminals providing impeccable signal while in transit “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 U.S. port or while on a domestic or international flight,” the filing read.

Yet, the smaller passenger vehicles may have to wait. “Not connecting Tesla cars to Starlink, as our terminal is much too big,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday, as a response to an article on the FCC filing. “This is for aircraft, ships, large trucks & RVs.”

Starlink began with its beta testing program last year. The operation was by invite only and has been working with a selection of 10,000 users via SpaceX’s now 1,000 plus satellites orbiting in space. The invites given were to US residents with little to no internet access due to their rural location. Currently, a Starlink kit with an antenna and router will set you back almost $50 upfront. The subscription on top of the initial kit purchase is set at $99 monthly, which will get you consistent speeds in the region of 70-130 Mbps. The preorders just went on offer in February and for the time being, are limited to a certain “number of users per coverage area”. The areas included are remote parts of the US, Canada, and the UK.

The antenna designs for vehicle distribution have been given a little tweak to adapt to the transient nature but we have no real details yet as none were provided alongside SpaceX’s request with the FCC. Joey roulette quotes in his article for theverge that SpaceX has said that they “are electrically identical to its previously authorized consumer user terminals but have mountings that allow them to be installed on vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.” They will be constructed to be fitted to the masts of maritime vessels or atop of a truck but would need to be contained on consumer vehicles such as “passenger cars or pleasure boats,” another SpaceX filing said. The vehicle antennas will be set up by “qualified installers” unlike Starlink’s current terminals, which come with mounts and are installed by the customer.

The interest in fitting Starlink terminals into cars, trucks, boats, and planes is hardly surprising. With Musk having a finger in the manufacturing of vehicles and aircraft it is a pretty logical step. The company previously obtained an experimental permit from the FCC to use Starlink terminals on Gulfstream jets. And back in January 2020 when it was asked whether we might see Starlink Terminals in the latest Tesla’s Musk didn’t say no. Although he danced around the topic and wasn’t hugely committed he did go as far as to say that “it’s certainly something that could happen in coming years.”

The FCC request is definitely a big hint that the company’s focus is shifting. The filing details that they would be looking to tailor their services towards “drivers, ship operators, and air travelers in the United States and abroad.” Offering Starlink internet to those customers will “allow operators and passengers to access services that enable increased productivity,” as to SpaceX. It was also mentioned that it would “enhance the security of mobile platforms” yet, the filing provided no further insights into those plans. For now, only time will tell, but the potential is exciting.

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