Starlink Satellite Illustration Created By @ErcXspace via Twitter
SpaceX operates the world’s largest broadband internet constellation with around 1,085 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit out of over 4,000 that will be launched as part of the network. The Starlink constellation is currently providing high-speed beta internet service to 10,000 users in the United States and abroad. The company aims to connect rural areas across the world to the world wide web to close the digital divide. A recent filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) states SpaceX plans to offer Starlink ‘phone voice service’ for low-income households and emergency responders through the FCC’s government Lifeline program which provides affordable phone call service to qualifying consumers, ArsTechnica first-reported.
However, this request does not mean SpaceX will beam Starlink connection directly to smartphones, it is more like a landline phone voice service at home. SpaceX plans for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that would enable consumers to make voice calls through their Starlink broadband internet. Starlink users receive internet connection via a dish antenna and Wi-Fi router device.“Consumers will have the option of using a third-party, conventional phone connected to a Session Initiation Protocol standards-compliant analog terminal adaptor or a native-IP phone selected from a list of certified models,” the FCC filing states.
SpaceX also said in the filing that Starlink could provide voice service “on a standalone basis at rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates." To offer voice service SpaceX is requesting the FCC to designate Starlink as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). “Designating Starlink Services as an ETC is in the public interest because it will enable the company to receive support that will facilitate rapid deployment of broadband and voice service to the Service Areas at speeds and latency comparable to terrestrial systems in urban locations,” SpaceX told the FCC. “Starlink Services respectfully requests that the Commission grant this petition by June 7, 2021 in order for Starlink Services to meet the Commission's deadline for ETC designation for the purposes of receiving RDOF [Rural Digital Opportunity Fund] support.” RDOF funding will enable SpaceX to provide Starlink connection at affordable price to rural communities in the United States. “Starlink Services currently has no Lifeline customers because only carriers designated as an ETC can participate in the Lifeline program,” the company said. If Starlink is granted ETC designation it “will provide Lifeline to qualifying low-income consumers and publicize the availability of Lifeline service in a manner reasonably designed to reach those likely to qualify for the service,” SpaceX wrote to the Commission.