T-Mobile says it is removing mobile dead zones thanks to a new partnership with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, on an event hosted by T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and Elon Musk.
According to Musk, second generation Starlink satellites Launching next year will be able to broadcast a service using some of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum. Musk said the new satellites will have “big, big antennas” to enable the new connections, and the plan is to launch the equipment using the upcoming Starship rocket. The two executives said they are seeking partnerships with mobile carriers around the world who would be interested in mutual spectrum sharing agreements so that their customers can connect to SpaceX, and when T-Mobile customers move to other countries. come, they can also use those connections.
The company says you can text, send MMS messages and even use “select messaging apps” when you have a clear view of the sky, even if no traditional service is available. “If there aren’t too many people in the cell zone, you might even have a little bit of video,” Musk said. As Sievert described it, messaging app operators will need to partner with T-Mobile and Starlink to get their services to recognize and work with the satellite connection once it launches.
Musk gave a little more detail, saying that unlike the usual internet service, it could work without access to Starlink’s entire satellite constellation. By limiting it to certain messages and services, and only in places that currently don’t have cellular connectivity, it could use an intermittent connection when satellites come in range for “basic” coverage.
Starlink V2, which launches next year, will broadcast directly to mobile phones, eliminating dead zones worldwide
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2022
The service will launch in beta next year, and Sievert says he hopes it will one day include data. He says T-Mobile’s “vision” at launch is for it to be included in the carrier’s “most popular plans” for free, though he did say today’s event is not an official announcement.
T-Mobile says current subscriber phones can use the network — no special equipment required. While there are rumors that future iPhones will include satellite communications, possibly for emergency purposes, that’s not the kind of technology T-Mobile is counting on here. As Elon Musk said in the announcement, “the phone you currently have will work.”
Sievert also said T-Mobile was “open” to the possibility of using SpaceX for its network backhaul in the future, especially in rural areas. While that’s clearly a few steps beyond what the two companies are offering now, it could help make it less expensive for the carrier to expand its network.
Earlier this year, SpaceX lost a bid for nationwide internet subsidies because of the cost of its equipment. But if it can piggyback on T-Mobile’s existing equipment, which people in rural areas may already own, that could help her case with the Federal Communications Commission. Thursday’s presentation certainly touched on the idea of national coverage, with videos of people in remote parks, the mountains or herding animals.