Dish calls out Elon Musk for tweets about Starlink and RVs, planes

Dish Network sent a letter last Friday to SpaceX demanding that the company retract statements that it says could trigger interference with Dish satellite TV services.

The letter came after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Starlink is available for RVs, campers and other large vehicle users but didn’t state that the service can’t be used on moving vehicles. Musk also tweeted that Starlink “does work on vehicles in motion, including planes, but not yet reliably.”

“Mr. Musk was not sharing these thoughts with an intimate circle of confidantes and associates,” wrote Dish attorney Pantelis Michalopoulos. “He was sharing them with his 95 million Twitter followers, fully aware of the potential for many retweets… He did not specify that the service is available only to parked or incapacitated RVs, or only to planes at the airport or at the hangar. In fact, he explicitly referred to ‘vehicles in motion.’”

The letter gets into the weeds pretty quickly, but it basically revolves around the need for FCC authority before SpaceX’s Starlink system may communicate with Earth stations in motion, a.k.a. as ESIMs, “and the prohibition on any company engaging in such communications” in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band.

According to Dish, the statements “actively encourage and solicit Starlink customers to break these rules.”

“As Dish has explained, Starlink ESIMs may activate Starlink beams in areas where satellites would not otherwise have been active, threatening satellite television customers in the area,” Dish wrote. “We therefore ask that you immediately retract these statements and clarify that Starlink ESIM operations are not legal and no customer should try them, by using media of equal reach to the ones where these statements were made.”

It's another notable event in the long-running saga between Dish, SpaceX and the 12 GHz band. Dish has petitioned the FCC so that it can use the MVDDS licenses it has in the 12 GHz band for two-way 5G services. SpaceX insists that it needs the 12 GHz band for Starlnk.

Dish has quite a few well-known wireless entities in its camp with the 12 GHz for 5G Coalition. They say the 12 GHz band could be used by both 5G and satellite users like Starlink. The FCC currently is contemplating next steps in a proceeding that got underway just before the former Chairman Ajit Pai left.

It’s also worth noting that this latest correspondence involves Starlink service for RVs, which is one of the segments that traditionally might have used Dish’s satellite service, which is losing subscribers.

Citing a second tweet by Musk the day after SpaceX announced that Starlink is now available for use on recreational vehicles, Dish said it gives customers the wrong impression that mobile use of the service is now allowed.

“SpaceX is not above the law,” wrote Dish, demanding that SpaceX and its CEO place a notice on their Twitter feeds stating that ESIM use is explicitly not authorized. Dish said it wants “a full response” to its letter no later than close of business on Wednesday, June 1.

Fierce reached out to SpaceX for comment and will update this article if there’s any word.