In partnership with T-Mobile US, SpaceX intends with its Starlink constellation of telecommunications satellites in low Earth orbit to put an end to the white zones. By the end of next year and after the launches of new Starlink satellites, a service will allow the operator’s smartphones to connect directly to them.
First in beta, the service will allow text messaging including sending and receiving SMS, MMS and with participating messaging apps. Later, voice and data will be added. According to SpaceX boss Elon Musk, connectivity will only be around 2 to 4 Mbps and with sharing between those within the satellite’s coverage area.
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
Initial coverage is planned for the continental United States, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and territorial waters, including outside of T-Mobile’s network signal. That being so, and while T-Mobile is committed to reciprocal roaming, global connectivity is mentioned with an invitation to operators.
” Applications range from connecting hikers in national parks to rural communities, remote sensors and devices, and people and devices in emergencies, such as firefighters. “, indicates SpaceX.
Mike Sievert (T-Mobile) and Elon Musk at SpaceX’s Starbase; Source: T-Mobile
Next-generation Starlink satellites
With existing smartphones, second-generation Starlink satellites will be used. They will be adapted to allow connection with smartphones. Currently, a household that connects to Starlink – and at very high speed – must go through a receiving satellite dish. Starlink V2 satellites will notably have a more powerful phased array antenna. It will spread over approximately 25 m².
According to Elon Musk (Ars Technica), these are the most advanced antennas in the world. ” They should pick up a very weak signal from your cell phone. This signal must travel 800 km and then be picked up by a satellite traveling at over 27,000 km/h. The satellite must compensate for the Doppler effect associated with such rapid movement. “
Asked on Twitter to find out if Tesla vehicles will also be able to connect to the new Starlink satellites, Elon Musk answered yes without going into details. It will necessarily be limited connectivity.
For the launch of the Starlink V2 satellites, it will be necessary in particular to wait for the commissioning of SpaceX’s Starship rocket… If necessary, SpaceX could develop a smaller version of such satellites for the possibility of launches with a Falcon 9 rocket. however some sort of fallback.