T-Mobile to use SpaceX Starlink satellites to expand cell service

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T-Mobile will use SpaceX satellites to expand the airline’s coverage to remote parts of the United States, the companies said Thursday.

The partnership will allow T-Mobile, the second-largest wireless carrier in the United States, to leverage the constellation of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites 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 has no cellular coverage.

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

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

Musk said the satellite service was intended to complement existing networks, not replace them. SpaceX is also looking to partner with other airlines around the world to make the service available outside the United States, he said. In March, SpaceX gave Ukraine access to its Starlink satellites to prevent massive internet outages after the Russian invasion.

“We’ve all read about someone who was walking, lost, or died of thirst or exposure,” Musk said. “It’s possible you’re stuck on a desert island talking to a basketball and now you can call for help.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on August 25 that T-Mobile’s new cellular service will use Starlink satellites and work with phones currently on the market. (Video: SpaceX)

Cell phones running on T-Mobile will have access to SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink V2 satellites, which will launch next year. The satellites will be equipped with huge antennas and will be able to completely mimic a transmission tower. If local coverage is not available, phones will automatically connect to the satellites traveling overhead at 17,000 miles per hour.

The satellites will provide two to four megabits per second of bandwidth, to be shared between customers in a cell zone, Musk said, or the equivalent of up to 2,000 voice calls and hundreds of thousands of text messages. The service also keeps users connected in the event of a cell tower failure.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission rejected SpaceX’s bid for nearly $1 billion in subsidies to provide satellite internet to customers nationwide. The committee said it was concerned that SpaceX’s $600 satellite dishes would be too expensive for some customers, and that the company “was unable to demonstrate that the carriers could deliver the service promised.”

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The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment about the planned partnership late Thursday.

The partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile also seems to give customers in rural areas access to internet services with the hardware already in their pocket.

“It solves real coverage problems in areas that cannot be served terrestrially and will save lives when people need help and rescue,” said Avi Greengart, principal analyst at Techsponential, a research firm. “It keeps people living far from the grid affordably connected and provides a level of redundancy when the grid goes down on the ground.”

Chris Velazco in San Francisco contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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