The operator has launched a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking that SpaceX’s
Earlier this week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX announced it would launch a direct-to-mobile connectivity service using its Low Earth Orbit satellite constellation, Starlink.
Currently, the roughly 4,863 device-strong constellation provides service to customers around the world via Starlink terminals, which act as a middleman to facilitate connectivity between the orbital satellites and the end user devices.
However, back in August last year, SpaceX announced a new agreement with T-Mobile to help the operator deliver services to unserved areas, part of which included the development of a direct-to-mobile satellite service. This would theoretically allow T-Mobile customers to connect to the satellites directly with unmodified smartphones.
These services would initially be limited to text messaging only, with voice and data services expected to be added in 2025.
At the time, SpaceX and T-Mobile said they would hope to roll out the beta product by the end of 2023.
Last week, SpaceX revealed a new web page for the burgeoning service, asking interested parties to get in touch. The page explained that text services would start in 2024, being joined by voice/data services and IoT connectivity in 2025.
But to deliver direct to mobile services, Starlink is going to need new, upgraded satellites. At the start of this month, SpaceX filed an application with the FCC asking for ‘special temporary authority (STA)’ to launch and test its second-generation satellite as early as December 1.
However, this application has drawn criticism from AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association (RWA), who argue that the satellite’s use of mobile spectrum for these tests could cause interference with commercial, terrestrial networks. They are urging the FCC to reject SpaceX’s request for an STA, instead arguing that the satellite operator should go through proper regulatory procedure and first gain approval from the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
SpaceX has responded by calling these claims baseless, saying that “AT&T and Dish-mouthpiece the RWA have seemingly coordinated a desperate, 11th-hour campaign to prevent [the STA].”
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