On Thursday, SpaceX and T-Mobile announced Coverage Above & Beyond – a direct Starlink connection for existing phones that will bring cellular connectivity anywhere in the world, regardless of how close you are to any cell tower.
The duo is looking to totally eliminate mobile dead-zones by integrating T-Mobile’s existing mid-band PCS spectrum into Starlink V2 satellites launching as soon as next year. This will allow phones, including existing ones to connect directly to the satellites. MMS and SMS text messages will be available at first, followed by voice and small amounts of data, anywhere in the world.
T-Mobile says that it plans to include this service on its standard plans, for no increased cost.
SpaceX says nearly 20% [of the US is] unreachable by traditional wireless networks. Currently, Starlink’s main terminals bring high-speed internet to remote locations. However, they are large, expensive, and require a clear line of sight to the entire sky.
“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 Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile. “More than just a groundbreaking alliance, this represents two industry-shaking innovators challenging the old ways of doing things to create something entirely new that will further connect customers and scare competitors.”
“The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” said SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk. “We’re incredibly excited to do this with T-Mobile.”
To provide this service, the companies will create a new network, broadcast from Starlink’s satellites using T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum nationwide. This true satellite-to-cellular service will provide nearly complete coverage almost anywhere a customer can see the sky.
T-Mobile is planning to give customers text coverage practically everywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and territorial waters, even outside the signal of T-Mobile’s network starting with a beta in select areas by the end of next year after SpaceX’s planned satellite launches. The earliest connectivity is expected in late 2023.