SpaceX to test satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile this year

Details about the rollout date to customers are not yet available.
Ameya Paleja
SpaceX And T-Mobile hold joint event in Texas
SpaceX And T-Mobile hold joint event in Texas

Michael Gonzales/Getty 

Elon Musk's SpaceX will test satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile later this year, a company executive said at an event in Washington D.C. on Monday. Jonathan Hofeller, the Vice President of sales at Starlink was speaking at a panel during Satellite 2023 conference held in the U.S. capital.

This is the first update from the company after it announced a tie-up with T-Mobile last August with the aim to end dead zones in the continental U.S., Hawaii, and parts of Alaska. Although mobile communication has progressed by leaps and bounds in the past decade, cellular service providers still need to tackle topographical challenges and land use restrictions to provide uninterrupted network access.

Satellite constellations like SpaceX's Starlink can potentially end the problem of dead zones by allowing service providers to expand their network while users continue using their existing equipment to access the internet.

Space-based data services

Even as Elon Musk rues about how close SpaceX is to bankruptcy, space-based data services are estimated to be extremely lucrative businesses. Since its services began, Starlink itself has launched multiple subscription plans and hiked rates. Yet, user sign-up is showing no signs of slowing down, with Hofeller confirming on Monday that the company had well over one million users.

The SpaceX executive also added that Starlink was building six satellites a day at its facility near Seattle and is confident that none of these belong to version 1.5 of its satellites. Starlink V2 satellites are estimated to have quadruple capacity when compared to its predecessor.

SpaceX to test satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile this year
A Starlink terminal installed on an apartment building

Even as SpaceX makes thousands of users terminals, which are needed by users to access its internet, it is also exploring satellite-to-cell connections. In September last year, Musk commented that he had discussed the possibility of using Starlink satellites with Apple's flagship phone.

Starlink's association with T-Mobile might be good news for the network's users since currently, it appears to be the only provider moving in this direction. There is no news on when AT&T's network will be upgraded using AST MObile's satellite network while Verizon's partner Amazon is yet to put a satellite into orbit, CNET said in its report.

Recently, Interesting Engineering reported how U.K.-based OneWeb was now a step closer to providing satellite-based internet services across the globe, putting it in direct competition with Starlink.

Even though we do not have details on when Starlink and T-Mobile's association with go live for users, SpaceX will surely look to get it operational soon, to stay ahead of the competition.

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