Qatar Airways has signed an agreement with SpaceX to provide complimentary high-speed Starlink satellite WiFi to passengers across its entire fleet, deal makes Qatar the largest airline yet to collaborate with SpaceX’s Starlink for in-flight connectivity.
By leveraging Starlink terminals mounted on aircraft, Qatar aims to offer all passengers free WiFi with speeds up to 350Mbps. This is a monumental upgrade from the typical 10Mbps offered by current aviation WiFi systems.
With ultra-fast broadband speeds in the sky, travelers can enjoy activities previously hampered by lag and limited bandwidth. This includes video calls, online gaming, streaming sports and movies, accessing virtual private networks, and more.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker touted the partnership as providing an unparalleled experience: “The introduction of Starlink will provide unmatched high-speed connectivity that was previously impossible to deliver to aircraft.”
The airline expects to begin rolling out Starlink-powered WiFi later in 2023 after testing and obtaining regulatory approvals. No official timeline was provided yet.
Qatar now joins Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, and JSX as early Starlink adoption partners in the aviation industry. This provides a huge proof point for SpaceX as more airlines wake up to the promise of satellite connectivity vs legacy air-to-ground systems.
Offering free high-speed WiFi serves as a competitive differentiator for Qatar against rival Gulf carriers like Emirates. As Starlink scales it coverage globally, the industry could see a shift to broadband speeds becoming table stakes for long haul flights.
With the latest deal, SpaceX continues pushing Starlink into new frontiers beyond rural broadband. Connecting passengers at 35,000 feet conjures images of the future more than cramped planes with patchy WiFi.
If the rollout succeeds, Qatar Airways will enjoy a huge PR boost while travelers get a taste of Starlink’s capabilities. The in-flight connectivity experience may never be the same.