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T-Mobile and SpaceX Starlink say your 5G phone will hook up to satellites next year

T-Mobile says it’s removing mobile dead zones because of a fresh partnership with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, at a meeting hosted by T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and Elon Musk. Making use of their “Coverage Far beyond” setup, cell phones could hook up to satellites and work with a slice of a link providing around 2 to 4 Megabits per second connection (total) across confirmed coverage area.

In accordance with Musk, second-generation Starlink satellites launching next year can broadcast service using section of T-Mobile’s mid-band PCS spectrum, that was bolstered when it had been permitted to buy Sprint a couple of years ago. Musk said the brand new satellites have “big, big antennas” which are 5 to 6 meters across make it possible for the brand new connections and that the program would be to launch the gear which consists of upcoming Starship rocket.

Note, connectivity will undoubtedly be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, so will continue to work ideal for texting & voice calls, however, not high bandwidth

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2022

The business says it’ll enable you to text, send MMS messages, and also use “select messaging apps” once you have an obvious view of the sky, even though there is no traditional service available. In accordance with a news release from T-Mobile, the “satellite-to-cellular service” will undoubtedly be available “all around the continental US, Hawaii, elements of Alaska, Puerto Rico and territorial waters.”

“If there aren’t way too many people in the cell zone, you might potentially have even a small amount of video,” said Musk. As Sievert described it, operators of messaging apps like WhatsApp or iMessage will have to use T-Mobile and Starlink for his or her services to identify the satellite connection and use it once it launches.

Musk provided a little more detail by saying that, unlike usual online sites, it might work without usage of Starlink’s full satellite constellation. By limiting it to certain messages and services, along with only in places that don’t now have cellular connectivity, it might work with a more intermittent connection for “basic” coverage, although you may have to hold back 30 minutes for a note to undergo.

Both execs said they’re seeking partnerships with mobile carriers worldwide who be thinking about reciprocal spectrum sharing agreements in order that their customers can link up with SpaceX. T-Mobile customers may possibly also use those connections if they arrived at other countries.

Musk also said on Twitter that certain of his others, Tesla, use the technology for the premium connectivity feature in its electric vehicles. Currently, Tesla uses AT&T’s network for things such as live traffic visualization, satellite-view maps, and music streaming.

Musk said that the service could even work while your phone is in your pocket, or in an automobile.
Image: SpaceX

The service will launch in beta by the finish of next year in “select areas,” and Sievert says he hopes it’ll someday include data. He says that whenever it launches, T-Mobile’s “vision” is for this to be included free of charge in the carrier’s “hottest plans,” though he did say that today’s event isn’t the official announcement. He said T-Mobile really wants to make it open to people who have “low priced” plans for a “monthly service fee” less than current satellite connectivity services. (That does potentially encompass an array of prices, though Garmin’s InReach satellite messenger subscription plans, for instance, start at $14.95 monthly but rise to $64.95 per month.)

T-Mobile says that subscribers’ current phones can make use of the network no special equipment required. As Elon Musk said in the announcement: “the telephone you now have will continue to work.”

T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and SpaceX chief engineer Elon Musk
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and SpaceX chief engineer Elon Musk
Image: SpaceX

The truth that it’s using traditional cell spectrum is really a tiny double-edged sword. Not requiring special equipment can be an obvious advantage, but T-Mobile doesn’t own the rights compared to that spectrum worldwide. So while SpaceX’s satellites could technically talk to phones internationally, T-Mobile might not have rights to exactly the same bands its system uses once you take your phone overseas or into international waters.

That isn’t the case for traditional satellite communications networks, just like the Iridium system Garmin uses. If phone manufacturers wished to introduce their very own version of the feature, something Apple has been rumored to be focusing on, partnering with other satellite providers could net them more coverage than T-Mobile’s likely to offer.

As Walter Piecyk, an analyst at Lightshed Partners, tells The Verge: “Apple and Samsung may have a less strenuous time integrating existing satellite connectivity to their upcoming phones than Starlink will face in attempting to cobble together spectrum rights with wireless operators around the world.”

Fights over spectrum rights could easily get messy and even curently have. T-Mobile and Verizon have lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to avoid an organization called AST & Science from launching satellites which could provide cellular phone service from space, claiming that its system could hinder its land-based networks. SpaceX is embroiled in a battle with Dish Networks on the 12Ghz spectrum, that your latter really wants to use for terrestrial 5G. Musk’s company has warned its home internet surfers that Dish using 12Ghz could totally destroy its satellite online sites. Analysts have even questioned if the service announced today will demand additional approvals from the FCC.

Sievert also said that T-Mobile was “open” to the chance of using SpaceX because of its network backhaul later on, especially in rural areas. While that is clearly a few steps ahead from what both companies are pitching now (again, Musk says each cell will support around 2-4 megabits), it might help to make it less costly for the carrier to expand its network. This type of plan will be much like what Verizon announced in collaboration with Amazon’s Kuiper satellite internet project, though that plan seems much further away from fruition, as Amazon doesn’t appear to have launched some of its satellites yet.

Earlier this season, SpaceX lost a bid for rural internet subsidies due to the cost of its equipment. But if it could piggyback off T-Mobile’s existing equipment, which people in rural areas may already own, which could help its case with the Federal Communications Commission. The Thursday presentation certainly hit on rural coverage, with videos of individuals in remote parks, the mountains, or herding animals.

Update 10: 15PM ET: added information regarding where in fact the service can cover, and also Tesla deploying it for premium connectivity in its cars.

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