SpaceX authorized to connect Starlink to vehicles

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US regulators said Elon Musk’s aerospace firm may tie its satellite web network to American vehicles

SpaceX has received a greenlight to begin connecting its orbital Starlink internet service to US-registered vehicles, including boats, planes and even RVs. Regulators shot down objections to the scheme raised by the firm’s corporate rivals. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its decision on Thursday, noting that SpaceX would be permitted to operate “unlimited Ku-band” – frequencies largely used for satellite comms – “in the territorial waters of the United States and aboard US-registered vessels throughout international waters worldwide.”

“Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move,” the FCC said, adding that the approval covers “vessels, land vehicles and aircraft.”

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FILE PHOTO: A long exposure photo shows a string of SpaceX Starlink satellites passing over an old house near Florence, Kansas.
SpaceX raises 5G concerns

While TV provider Dish attempted to block the authorization amid a heated battle with SpaceX over its own use of 5G technology, the FCC said it rejected the petition, suggesting responses by the latter firm satisfied any potential concerns. 

SpaceX has objected to Dish’s 5G plans, issuing a review last month which concluded that such networks could pose serious problems for Starlink internet users due to interference. 

However, while Dish public policy chief Jeffrey Blum said the company is still reviewing the new FCC order, he observed that the agency determined Starlink’s service for vehicles “has to accept any and all interference from future 5G operations and that they must clearly disclose such limitations to their customers.”

SpaceX currently has some 2,700 Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit, providing web services to hundreds of thousands of people, though CEO Musk has said he hopes to bring the total number of satellites to 42,000 in the coming decades to dramatically expand coverage.

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