By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Elon Musk's SpaceX is expanding its satellite internet unit's foray into in-flight WiFi services with the rollout on Wednesday of Starlink Aviation, offering customers a $150,000 airplane antenna amid mounting competition for airborne connectivity.
Starlink, SpaceX's growing network of thousands of internet satellites, will charge customers seeking broadband internet on private jets between $12,500 to $25,000 a month for the service, on top of a one-time $150,000 hardware cost, the company said on its website.
Starlink Aviation will begin delivering terminals in mid-2023, it said on its website, with reservations requiring a $5,000 payment. It added each terminal can deliver up to 350 Mbps, fast enough for video calls and online gaming.
Companies building low-Earth orbiting satellite networks beaming broadband internet, like SpaceX's Starlink and Britain-backed satellite operator OneWeb, are racing to court airlines and private jet services in a market dominated by companies such as Inmarsat and its rival ViaSat, which are planning to merge.
OneWeb on Tuesday announced an agreement with in-flight broadband giant Panasonic Avionics, which offers service to some 70 airlines, to market and sell OneWeb's broadband service to airlines by mid-2023.
Britain's competition regulator last week referred Viasat's planned takeover of rival Inmarsat for an in-depth investigation over concerns the tie-up could hamper new competition in the aviation connectivity market and increase prices for airlines' on-board Wi-Fi.
SpaceX plans to offer Starlink internet connectivity to Hawaiian Airlines planes next year. The company offers the service for maritime customers and RVs, and already has tens of thousands of individual consumers paying $110 a month with a $599 terminal.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
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