SpaceX has submitted a new request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct tests that could pave the way for space-based phone calls and text messaging. The request comes as part of their partnership with T-Mobile to provide satellite-to-cellular connectivity. In 2022, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and T-Mobile's President & CEO, Mike Sievert, made headlines by announcing their collaboration to modify SpaceX's Starlink satellites to directly beam services to smartphones – as reported by TESMANIAN. This ambitious venture aims to eliminate cellular dead zones and provide reliable connectivity, especially in remote areas across the United States.
This week, SpaceX took a significant step towards making space-based phone calls a reality by submitting a new FCC filing. The company is seeking "Special Temporary Authority" (STA) for 60 days to test their T-Mobile direct-to-cellphone technology in orbit, commencing on December 1st, 2023. The FCC filing's description outlines SpaceX's intention to use its second-generation Starlink (Gen2) satellites for direct-to-cellular communications, allowing unmodified cellular phones to connect directly to the Starlink V2 satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
This indicates that SpaceX's upcoming iteration of Starlink V2 Mini satellites might be equipped with T-Mobile-compatible satellite-to-cellular technology payload. If the FCC grants the temporary authorization, these satellites could be launched by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in December.
However, the SpaceX-T-Mobile venture is not without its challenges. Competitors such as Dish Network, AT&T, and Omnispace, have expressed concerns about potential disruptions to their operations. Consequently, the FCC has yet to grant the necessary spectrum license to proceed operations. SpaceX has presented evidence to the FCC stating that its direct-to-cell service will not interfere with existing terrestrial and planned satellite operations by its competitors.
Moreover, SpaceX's request for the temporary license is not solely to advance their project but also to showcase their technology. The hope might be that by demonstrating the feasibility and non-interference of the Starlink satellite-to-cellular service, SpaceX and T-Mobile can address the concerns raised by their competitors and potentially gain the full FCC license for satellite-to-cellular service across the United States. As the company awaits the FCC's decision, the SpaceX-T-Mobile partnership remains at the forefront of technological innovation, with the potential to reshape global communications and connectivity, bringing an end to the era of cellular dead zones.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink.com
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.