Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline has been testing SpaceX’s Starlink technology a report of The Wall Street Journal† The report calls the tests “exploratory” and says there were no further details, but it appears that one of the major US carriers is at least interested in Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service.
In July last year, SpaceX said it was “in talks with several” airlines and that it was trying to “get that product ready to be placed on planes in the very near future.” A few months earlier, the company applied for FCC approval to provide service to moving vehicles such as airplanes, boats and trucks. (CEO Elon Musk has said the equipment is currently too large to fit on passenger cars, although that hasn’t stopped some people.) WSJ reports that the regulator will allow SpaceX to at least test its aircraft-oriented service, but also says the company still needs approval from the FAA if it wants to actually sell the service.
Speaking to a panel in March, the SpaceX vice president didn’t hint at when Starlink in-flight Wi-Fi will be coming, but reiterated that the company is testing the technology and trying to certify it on some planes† according to Space news† He also set sky-high expectations (pardon the pun) for how well it will work, saying the company is “designing a service where every passenger on that plane can stream simultaneously.” Since many flights can hold 100-200 or more passengers, that would require some serious bandwidth — Netflix recommends 5 Mbps for a single 1080p stream.
Currently, Delta’s in-flight Wi-Fi is operated by Viasat, another satellite Internet company that also provides some services for United and American† The company website promises “streaming capable speeds on more than 250 routes” by 2022. Like many airlines, it allows you to watch movies and send messages for free through approved services, but you’ll likely have to pay if you want to access the wider internet.