Starlink satellite broadband services’ first air carrier will be from Jet Service provider JSX. The semi-private charter company signed a deal with Starlink in-flight Wi-Fi. This service will be covering the 77 30-seat Embraer jets for around 100 of them in its fleet. Other financial details were not disclosed about the deal, including whether the services will be free of charge for passengers.
The testing of the terminal has been developed specially by the companies for the aviation market. Starlink vice president of commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller said on March 22 that they are working to get certification on various aircraft. JSX’s announcement comes days after Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told the Wall Street Journal on April 18 that it has conducted exploratory Starlink tests on its aircraft. More than 300 Delta aircraft are currently equipped with Wi-Fi using Viasat’s satellite network, and the airline has plans to connect at least 200 more planes to that network by the end of 2022.
Delta said on March 14 that more than 50% of domestic enplanements are served by Viasat connectivity. Viasat’s shares fell 1.4% to close at $45.54 on April 18 after beginning the day at $46.17. Inflight connectivity provider Gogo’s shares also took a hit after the Wall Street Journal’s report, even though it sold the commercial part of its business that serves Delta planes to satellite operator Intelsat two years ago. Both companies’ stock prices suffered deeper declines after news of Starlink’s first airline deal emerged amid investor worries about future inflight connectivity competition.
Viasat’s shares started April 22 at $42.31, down 7.1% compared to their April 18 opening price. Inmarsat, SES, and many other established satellite broadband operators are also chasing an inflight connectivity market that — despite recently suffering under pandemic-related travel restrictions — promises significant growth as passengers increasingly demand better connectivity services. Hofeller said on March 22 that SpaceX sees connectivity on airplanes as ripe for an overhaul and that its services will be indistinguishable from conventional internet access.
The company started seeking regulatory permission in 2020 to test Starlink services on private jets and the vessels Falcon 9 rockets land on for reuse. SpaceX is also planning to connect vehicles and other types of boats to Starlink to expand the broadband network out of fixed homes and offices. Starlink has a quarter-million subscribers that, following a recent price hike, are charged $110 a month for its standard service or $500 a month for a premium tier that uses an improved antenna with a broader scan angle.