The move will allow the company to expand its customer base, which until now has focused solely on providing internet services of about $100 per month to homes, mostly in areas not served by traditional ground-based internet services. It has hundreds of thousands of subscribers around the world.
The regulatory approval, issued Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission, also gives SpaceX the ability to expand its service to trains, ships and other vehicles, opening up a wide range of potential business customers. The company has also already advertised its services to RV drivers.
Traditionally, airlines, ships and trains rely on satellites in geosynchronous orbit, an orbit more than 32,000 miles away, provided by companies such as ViaSat. SpaceX’s Starlink takes a different approach to broadcasting the Internet from space by placing thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, or just a few hundred miles from the ground. The company says this offers lower latency or lag times for its service.
It’s not clear how Starlink’s mobile services will be priced, but SpaceX is already selling its service directly to businesses.
The FCC’s decision also marks another chapter in an ongoing battle over spectrum rights. Spectrum refers to a range of radio frequencies, and federal regulators keep a close eye on which companies are allowed to use which frequencies so signals don’t interfere with each other.
Companies such as ViaSat, Dish Network and wireless company RS Access have filed suit against the FCC’s decision.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment for this story.