Have you always wanted high-speed internet for your recreational vehicle (RV) or boat? Rejoice, SpaceX wants that to happen using their Starlink constellation. There’s a catch though.
SpaceX submitted an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 5, 2021 requesting “a blanket license authorizing operation of such end-user earth stations for deployment as Vehicle-Mounted Earth Stations (‘VMESs’), Earth Stations on Vessels (‘ESVs’), and Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft (‘ESAAs’) (collectively, Earth Stations in Motion (‘ESIMs’)).”
What this means is that SpaceX wants the Starlink service to be mobile. Right now the service is fixed, with users only being able to access the service from their home address service area.
If the FCC approves the application then RV’s, large trucks, aircraft, and ships would be able to use Starlink on the move. We recently did a podcast on how Kymeta is already doing this, though not yet with low Earth orbit constellations, and more for government and commercial customers as the service is very expensive.
Would the service be available in your car? Although the FCC application does say yes, Elon Musk Tweeted a clarification saying no, as the terminal is too big.
Aside from the large terminal, there’s the issue of radiation. SpaceX did include a radiation hazard analysis as part of its submission. SpaceX states in their application that the terminals would need to be installed by qualified installers.
“SpaceX Services will ensure installation of ESIM terminals on vehicles and vessels by qualified installers who have an understanding of the antenna’s radiation environment and the measures best suited to maximize protection of the general public and persons operating the vehicle and equipment. An ESIM terminal exhibiting radiation exposure levels exceeding 1.0 mW/cm in accessible areas, such as at the exterior surface of the radome, will have a label attached to the surface of the terminal warning about the radiation hazard and will include thereon a diagram showing the regions around the terminal where the radiation levels could exceed the maximum radiation exposure limit.”
Will Starlink mobile connectivity be available in Canada? I can certainly see SpaceX wanting to offer this type of connectivity. I see no evidence of an application yet, and an application might not be forthcoming until after the FCC has made a decision in the U.S. And there’s no doubt Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will closely scrutinize any application before any approval might come. So I wouldn’t expect this service in Canada this year.