SpaceX operates a constellation of around 2,700 Starlink satellites that provide high-speed internet across 37 countries. Around a month ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved SpaceX use of Starlink aboard moving vehicles, including cruise ships, airplanes, and RVs. The company already has contracts to provide Starlink internet to Hawaiian Airlines and JSX charter flights for passengers. In June, Starlink user antenna terminals were installed aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship to provide Wi-Fi to vacationers in the middle of the ocean where internet is usually unreliable.
On July 25, SpaceX submitted a new filing with the FCC seeking approval to use the 2Ghz (gigahertz) frequency to "augment" Starlink Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) capacity for "mobile users" living in the "most remote corners of the country." In the filing, a SpaceX states it plans to use Starlink satellites to beam internet "virtually anywhere" directly to users without the need to build cellular base ground stations. The mobile system will use existing Starlink ground stations that are used for Fixed Satellite Service (FSS). SpaceX told the FCC it has the technology operate a reliable MSS after it acquired Swarm Technologies in 2021, a company that is working to build an Internet of Things (IoT) constellation of very small satellites (CubeSats) in low Earth orbit to provide mobile broadband data anywhere globally. Now that Swarm Technologies is an official subsidiary of SpaceX, the company plans to integrate tech directly into Starlink satellites to operate in the 2Ghz range. Doing this would enable SpaceX to provide mobile internet anywhere on the planet. SpaceX said that the satellite mobile service in the 2Ghz band “will provide service with latency below 50 milliseconds, which is nearly unnoticeable to consumers.”
“Americans are increasingly demanding connectivity wherever they are, whenever they want, and whatever they are doing,” wrote SpaceX to the FCC. “In particular, they have grown accustomed to being able to connect using small, hand-held devices that they can carry with them or affix to mobile platforms. In order to expand into this mobile services arena, SpaceX recently acquired Swarm Technologies, Inc. ("Swarm"), a company authorized to deploy and operate 150 small NGSO [Non-geostationary satellite orbit] satellites designed to provide narrowband services in the very-high frequency ("VHF") 137-138 MHz and 148-150.5 MSS bands [...] Swarm has already launched most of its authorized satellites and is offering services to customers in the agriculture, maritime, energy, environmental, and transportation sectors, among others in need of global satellite connectivity for Internet-of-things ("IoT") devices," the application states.
“This system will ensure that all Americans —even those in Polar Regions— enjoy the same low latency mobile services,” SpaceX wrote. “And consumers are not the only beneficiaries of this improved service. For many Federal users, satellite service is the only communications option to support critical missions. Improving capacity and latency for these users could have significant national security benefits. All of these services are in the public interest.”
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.