SpaceX and T-Mobile will begin testing a new service to bring satellite connectivity to cell phones this year, a SpaceX executive said. The news, first reported by CNBC, suggests that we may be close to a future where cellular “dead zones” are a thing of the past.
SpaceX and T-Mobile announced the partnership last August, saying that they plan to provide “near complete coverage in most places in the U.S. -- even in many of the most remote locations previously unreachable by traditional cell signals.” The idea is to create a new network, one that leverages Starlink satellites' and T-Mobile's mid-band 5G spectrum.
Sat-to-cell is considered to be the next frontier for space-based connectivity services, with multiple companies racing to be the first to provide data to cell phones. Project Kuiper -- a competitor satellite broadband project from Amazon, which has yet to launch any satellites -- announced a similar partnership with Verizon in 2021. Consumer electronics giant Apple has also strayed into this space: The company has invested nearly half a billion dollars in satellite network and ground stations from entities like Globalstar to deliver emergency SOS to iPhone users.
Other startups are also competing in this space. Lynk, a company working on two-way SMS capabilities from space, recently received FCC approval to deploy and operate a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. Satellite-to-smartphone company AST SpaceMobile wants to deploy massive satellites that could provide cellular broadband around the world. The company launched its first test satellite last year.