On Friday, the official airline of the Middle East’s State of Qatar (Qatar Airways) announced that it is integrating SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet into its airplanes. Both of the companies have already signed an agreement.
Qatar Airways is now the largest airline to offer Starlink’s high bandwidth low-latency internet to its guests on board. Passengers will be able to enjoy Wi-Fi speeds of up to 350 Mbps (Megabits per second) during the flight.
Since this internet service is provided through a constellation of thousands of Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO), therefore, connectivity across the globe and at high altitudes is readily available.
Qatar Airways published a press release on Friday to announce the Starlink integration, the announcement stated:
Qatar Airways is now the largest airline to collaborate with Starlink and in the future, will roll out a complimentary high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity experience onboard specific aircraft and routes. Starlink’s service will be a further enhancement of Qatar Airways’ 5-star onboard experience. Once the service is active, passengers will be able to enjoy ultra-fast Wi-Fi speeds of up to 350 Megabits per second which can be used for a variety of internet-based services such as video streaming their favourite entertainment and sports videos, gaming, enriched web-browsing and much more.Qatar Airways (complete press release PDF below)
Airlines such as Hawaiian Airlines, airBaltic, JSX, and ZipAir Tokyo are already using the Starlink broadband internet service. However, Qatar Airways is the top client SpaceX‘s Starlink Aviation has won to date.
Starlink for aviation comes under the company’s business segment. Business customers get customized solutions by SpaceX to provide them with global access to Starlink’s high bandwidth internet.
A regular Starlink dish receiver cannot be attached to an airplane for obvious reasons. SpaceX designs customized receivers and related hardware for the aviation industry. SpaceX charges $25,000 per month for in-flight high-speed Starlink internet and it costs $150,000 for hardware installation for a single aircraft.
According to the Starlink website, receivers are currently only available for Gulfstream G650 & G650ER jets (Elon Musk‘s private jet is also a Gulfstream G650ER).
Starlink estimates that the development of receivers and relevant certifications for Gulfstream GIV, GV, G450 (GIV-X), and G550 (GV-SP) airframes will be completed in Q4 2023.
The following table lists the airframes and related Starlink Aviation availability timelines:
|Manufacturer + Airframe||(STC) Supplemental Type Certificate Timeline|
|Airbus A321Neo||Q4 2023|
|Airbus A320||2024 & Beyond|
|Airbus A330||2024 & Beyond|
|ATR 72-500, 72-600||2024 & Beyond|
|Beechcraft Super King Air 200/300||Q1 2024|
|Boeing 737||2024 & Beyond|
|Boeing 757||2024 & Beyond|
|Boeing 787||2024 & Beyond|
|Boeing 777||2024 & Beyond|
|Bombardier Challenger 300/350||2024 & Beyond|
|Bombardier Challenger 600, 601, 604, 605, 650||2024 & Beyond|
|Bombardier Global 5000||Q1 2024|
|Bombardier Global 5500||Q1 2024|
|Bombardier Global 6000||Q1 2024|
|Bombardier Global 6500||Q1 2024|
|Bombardier Global 7500||Q1 2024|
|Bombardier Global Express||Q4 2023|
|Bombardier Global Express XRS||Q4 2023|
|Dassault Falcon 2000||2024 & Beyond|
|De Havilland Canada Dash Q400 (8-400), Q300 (8-300)||2024 & Beyond|
|Embraer Legacy||2024 & Beyond|
|Embraer Phenom 300||2024 & Beyond|
|Embraer Praetor||2024 & Beyond|
|Gulfstream G450||Q4 2023|
|Gulfstream G550||Q4 2023|
|All Other||2024 & Beyond|
Qatar Airways currently owns 229 jets and the fleet is comprised of large Airbus and Boeing aircraft (refer to Table 2 below).
As we can see in Table 1 above, SpaceX is currently developing Starlink receivers for these airplanes and availability is pending in 2024 and beyond.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways is proud to announce its agreement with Starlink to provide seamless and complimentary Wi-Fi to its global passengers. This exciting collaboration is not only in line with our industry-leading approach to technological adoption, but also serves as an unmissable opportunity to connect Starlink to our global passengers. We look forward to our passengers benefitting from this state-of-the-art addition to Qatar Airways’ in-flight experience.”