In a groundbreaking move aimed at bridging the digital divide, KDDI, one of Japan's leading telecommunications companies, has joined hands with SpaceX, the space exploration and satellite technology company, to introduce satellite-to-cellular service across Japan. The partnership is set to revolutionize connectivity in Japan and beyond, reaching even the most remote areas that were previously beyond the reach of traditional cellular networks. Leveraging SpaceX's Starlink low Earth orbit satellites and KDDI's national wireless spectrum, the collaboration is set to provide KDDI's customers with unparalleled connectivity, starting with SMS text services as early as 2024, with voice and data services to follow.
The core vision behind this alliance is "connecting the unconnected." By capitalizing on the capabilities of SpaceX's Starlink constellation, KDDI aims to bring seamless connectivity to areas that have long struggled with limited or no cellular coverage, such as remote islands and mountainous regions.
Makoto Takahashi, President and CEO of KDDI, expressed his excitement about the partnership, stating: "Since the partnership announced in 2021, KDDI and SpaceX have worked together to expand the cellular coverage, leveraging Starlink, with the shared vision of connecting the unconnected," said Makoto. "In order to move into a new dimension of coverage, we are developing a next-generation satellite communication service in collaboration with SpaceX, aiming to enable your smartphone to connect wherever you see the sky."
"This is super exciting that KDDI is now our first direct-to-cell partner in Asia, following a long-standing relationship with the company for the use of cellular backhaul and as a Starlink enterprise reseller," said SpaceX Sales VP of Commercial Business Tom Ochinero. "This service will be a game changer for all domestic KDDI subscribers. With our partnerships around the world, KDDI subscribers will be able to secure their communications overseas without having to change networks. We are looking forward to adding even more operators all around the world," they stated on September 5.
KDDI and SpaceX are not only focused on transforming connectivity in Japan but are also inviting carriers from around the world to join their ecosystem of mobile network operators. This initiative aims to bring next-generation satellite-enabled connectivity to customers globally.KDDI's extensive network, with 99.9% population coverage in Japan, is well-established. However, Japan's unique geography, with much of its landmass being uninhabitable, presents challenges for traditional network expansion. Through the strategic use of SpaceX's Starlink satellite technology, KDDI seeks to enhance its commitment to "connecting the unconnected."
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.