Featured Images Source: Tesmanian.com
On Thursday, August 25, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and T-Mobile’s President & CEO Mike Sievert hosted an event at Starbase in South Texas to announce their new partnership to provide universal satellite-to-cellular connectivity. The partnership involves a plan to modify SpaceX Starlink satellites to beam service directly to smartphones. T-Mobile plans to roll out the "Coverage Above and Beyond" service in 2023, which will enable global roaming for free for its customers. “We’ve always thought differently about what it means to keep customers connected, and that’s why we’re working with the best to deliver coverage above and beyond anything customers have ever seen before,” said Sievert.
"The Starlink satellites will be able to broadcast directly to cell phones [...]," Musk said, emphasizing that this is a very "profound" deal that will revolutionize cellular communication. The companies are working together to develop a new network that will use T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum on Starlink satellites. SpaceX’s current Starlink satellites are designed to provide high-speed broadband internet access by utilizing a pizza-sized user terminal antenna. The company plans to develop a modified Starlink V2 satellite next year that will be equipped with technology capable of beaming voice and SMS/MMS (text messages) data directly to cellular phones.
Musk said the new Starlink V2 satellites will have powerful "big antennas" that are 5 to 6 meters across to enable the direct cellular connections. “We need to do more than reprogram the satellite; we’re making a special antenna, the most advanced phased array antennas in the world. They have to pick up a very quiet signal from your cell phone,” shared Musk at the event. “There’s quite a bit of complex hardware and software, because it is moving so fast – they’re traveling overhead at 17,000 miles per hour. Normally a cell phone tower does not travel at 17,000 miles per hour.”
The Starlink V2 satellites will be launched by SpaceX’s gigantic Starship that is actively under development. “It’s a lot like putting a cellular tower in the sky, just a lot harder,” explained Sievert during the presentation, “Your phone doesn’t really know it’s connecting for space. It’ll think it’s connected to a cell tower, because that phone is using industry standard technology communication protocols and it has the spectrum already built in, as the vast majority of phones in circulation today do.”
"We’ve designed our system so that no modifications are required to the cell phone everyone has in their pocket today, and no new firmware, software updates, or apps are needed," said SpaceX. The leaders highlighted the importance of having a reliable communication service in remote places, especially to seek help when facing an emergency. “[...] The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” Musk added. “We’re incredibly excited to do this with T-Mobile.”
During the presentation, Musk and Sievert also shared their vision for connecting the most remote places on Earth by issuing an open invitation to the world’s telecommunication providers to partner with SpaceX to work on connecting the entire planet. "We do want to work with other partners in other parts of the world and really enable this as a function anywhere," said Musk.
At the end of the partnership announcement, they took questions from the media and TESMANIAN journalist Evelyn J. Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) had the opportunity to ask Musk a question: "How many Starlink users can a single Starlink satellite support?" –"For this application, we are talking about roughly 2 to 4 Megabits (Mbits) per cell zone, so, it depends on how many people are on that cell zone," Musk explained, "You divide that bandwidth by the number of people in cell zone who are using it simultaneously. Since a voice call is about 2 kilobits, 1 to 2,000 simultaneous voice calls or hundreds of thousands text messages could be sent depending on the length of the text message," he said (watch the video clip below). –"Note, connectivity will be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, so will work great for texting & voice calls, but not high bandwidth," wrote Musk via Twitter.
I write stories for @Tesmanian_com & had the opportunity to ask @elonmusk a question during the @SpaceX / @TMobile partnership announcement.— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) August 26, 2022
~"How many Starlink users can a single Starlink satellite support?" pic.twitter.com/VMoCtmRScs
Note, connectivity will be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, so will work great for texting & voice calls, but not high bandwidth— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2022
VIDEO: T-MOBILE & SPACEX PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT
All Featured Images Source: Tesmanian.com / Journalist Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter
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.