T-Mobile will use SpaceX Starlink satellites to expand cellular service

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T-Mobile will use SpaceX satellites to extend the carrier’s coverage to remote parts of the United States, the companies announced Thursday.

The partnership will allow T-Mobile, the second largest wireless carrier in the United States, to operate the SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation to provide service to customers in areas without cell towers. T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Wash., said more than 500,000 square miles of the United States lacked cellular coverage.

“This partnership is the end of mobile dead zones,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said during a press conference Thursday with SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “It’s important for safety, it’s important for connecting with the people we love, and it’s important for people in rural areas.”

T-Mobile will begin using Starlink satellites to test messaging services in remote areas by the end of next year, before expanding to data and voice coverage, Sievert said. He expects the service to be included in T-Mobile’s most popular plans at no additional cost.

Musk said the satellite service was meant to complement existing networks, not replace them. SpaceX is also looking to partner with other carriers around the world to make the service available outside the United States, he said. In March, SpaceX provided Ukraine to access to its Starlink satellites to avoid massive internet blackouts after the invasion of Russia.

“We’ve all heard of someone hiking, getting lost, or dying of thirst or cold,” Musk said. “You could possibly be stuck on a desert island talking to a basketball and now you can call for help.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Aug. 25 that the new cellular service with T-Mobile will use Starlink satellites and work with phones currently on the market. (Video: SpaceX)

Cell phones running on T-Mobile will be able to access SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink V2 satellites, which are slated to launch next year. The satellites will be equipped with massive antennas and will be able to fully imitate a cell tower. If there is no local coverage available, the phones will automatically connect to satellites traveling overhead at 17,000 miles per hour.

The satellites will offer two to four megabits per second of bandwidth, to be shared among customers in a cellular area, Musk said, or the equivalent of up to 2,000 voice calls and hundreds of thousands of text messages. The service will also keep users connected in the event of a massive cell tower outage.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission rejected SpaceX’s bid for nearly $1 billion in grants to provide satellite internet to rural customers. The commission said it was concerned that SpaceX’s $600 satellite dishes were too expensive for some customers and that the company “failed to demonstrate that vendors could deliver the promised service.”

Disrupted by SpaceX, ULA had “serious problems”. Now it’s on its way back.

The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment late Thursday on the planned collaboration.

The partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile also aims to allow rural customers to access Internet service with the hardware already in their pockets.

“It solves real coverage issues in areas that cannot be served by land and will save lives when people need help and rescue,” said Avi Greengart, principal analyst at Techsponential, a technology company. research. “This will allow people living far from the grid to be connected affordably and provide a level of redundancy when the ground network fails.”

Chris Velazco in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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