The service will “save lives”, said billionaire Elon Musk, citing the example of lost hikers who are currently unable to call for help.
SpaceX satellites will connect directly to T-Mobile phones to deliver the phone network to the most isolated places, beyond the range of relay antennas, the company Elon Musk and the German telecom giant announced Thursday.
The new service, which will use SpaceX’s thousands of Starlink satellites already in orbit and work on existing phones, will start enabling texting and receiving from late 2023, with voice services expected to follow.
“The important thing is that it means there will be no more white zones anywhere in the world for your phone,” Elon Musk said at an event at SpaceX’s Starbase site in Texas.
“A Cell Tower in the Sky”
Although satellite Internet access has been around for several years, users currently require specialized equipment, such as Starlink terminals.
The service “won’t have the kind of bandwidth that a Starlink terminal would have, but will allow texting, pictures, and if there aren’t too many people in the cellular area, you could even potentially have some video,” Elon Musk said.
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said he expects the service to be included for free on most current subscription plans, but there may be a user surcharge on lowest-cost plans.
The service will initially be offered to U.S. customers, but T-Mobile is expected to expand to other markets in the future, Mike Sievert said. “It’s like putting a relay antenna up in the sky. But much more complicated,” he also explained.