SpaceX and T-Mobile to launch mobile communications for smartphones in the US through Starlink, and possibly around the world
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and T-Mobile President Mike Siewert announced their plan to provide universal connectivity for smartphone users with no “dead zones” thanks to Starlink satellites.
As the companies note, despite the active development of terrestrial wireless networks LTE and 5G, more than 20% of the territory of the United States and 90% of the Earth remain uncovered by wireless communication. These “dead zones” have serious implications for remote communities and those who travel off-grid for work or leisure.
The telecommunications industry struggles to reach these areas with traditional cellular technology due to land use restrictions (such as national parks), terrain limits (such as mountains, deserts, and other topographical realities), and the vastness of the globe. In these areas, people either remain disconnected or resort to satellite phones and pay high rates.
Using Starlink, SpaceX’s constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites, and T-Mobile’s wireless network, the companies plan to provide customers with coverage virtually anywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and territorial waters, even outside the T-Mobile network signal.
The service will be offered starting in beta in select regions by the end of next year after SpaceX’s planned satellite launches. The speed of such a connection will be from 2 to 4 Mbit/s per coverage area. This is enough for exchanging text messages, including SMS, MMS and messengers, as well as voice calls. However, work on adding high-speed Internet access will continue and during the beta test, such an opportunity will not be available.
According to Musk, the second-generation Starlink satellites, which will be launched next year, will be able to provide mobile service using some of T-Mobile’s mid-range PCS spectrum, which was boosted when the company acquired the Sprint carrier several years ago. Musk said the new satellites have “big, big antennas” 5 to 6 meters in diameter to provide new connections, and that the plan is to launch the equipment on a future Starship rocket.
In addition, Elon and Mike shared their vision for the global expansion of the Coverage Above and Beyond initiative, sending an open invitation to the world’s operators to create a truly global communication system. T-Mobile has committed to offering mutual roaming to participating mobile operators to realize this vision.