SpaceX and T-Mobile have teamed up to test a new service that will provide satellite connectivity to cell phones, according to a SpaceX executive. The partnership was announced last August, with the aim of creating a new network that leverages Starlink satellites and T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum to provide near-complete coverage in most places in the US. This development suggests that cellular “dead zones” could become a thing of the past, as multiple companies race to provide data to cell phones using satellites.
Sat-to-cell connectivity is considered to be the next frontier for space-based connectivity services, with other companies also competing in this space. Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which has yet to launch any satellites, announced a similar partnership with Verizon in 2021. Apple has also invested nearly $500 million in satellite network and ground stations to provide emergency SOS to iPhone users.
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Startups such as Lynk and AST SpaceMobile are also competing in this space. Lynk recently received FCC approval to deploy and operate a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit, with the aim of providing two-way SMS capabilities from space. AST SpaceMobile is planning to deploy massive satellites that could provide cellular broadband around the world and launched its first test satellite last year.
The partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile could bring about significant improvements in cell phone connectivity, particularly in remote areas. “Our technology will accelerate T-Mobile’s ability to expand its network into rural America and eliminate connectivity deserts across the country”, said Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s VP of Starlink and commercial sales.