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T-Mobile and SpaceX’s Starlink Satellites Set to Transform Mobile Connectivity

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In a groundbreaking collaboration, T-Mobile US and SpaceX are gearing up for the field testing of Starlink satellites, heralding a significant stride in eliminating mobile coverage dead zones. While the exact date for the commencement of field testing remains undisclosed, T-Mobile is optimistic about its imminent initiation, stating that the low-Earth orbit deployment of satellites sets the stage for the forthcoming trials.

The joint initiative, part of the “Coverage Above and Beyond” plan announced in August 2022, recently achieved a noteworthy milestone with the launch of 21 new Starlink satellites, including six equipped with Direct to Cell capabilities. This development marks a crucial step towards merging SpaceX’s Starlink satellites with T-Mobile’s mobile network, providing users struggling with connectivity direct-to-phone services.

Although a comprehensive service directly to mobile phones is not on the immediate horizon, T-Mobile anticipates offering text messaging via Direct to Cell initially, with voice and data services slated to follow in the coming years. Starlink, too, has projected providing voice, data, and IoT offerings by 2025.

While T-Mobile envisions extending coverage “nearly everywhere” in the US, full ubiquity may require the deployment of additional low-Earth orbit satellites. The initiative aims to address the connectivity challenges faced in over half a million square miles of land and vast ocean expanses currently unreachable by terrestrial networks.

Describing the proposed service as a “crucial additional layer of connectivity,” T-Mobile emphasizes its significance in the evolving landscape of cellular technology. As discussions around the next generation of cellular technology focus on a network of networks, including satellites, the collaboration aims to play a pivotal role in achieving comprehensive coverage.

Despite the testing phase just commencing, Direct to Cell is expected to be available before the advent of 6G technology. T-Mobile, known for highlighting its network prowess, anticipates sharing more insights as development progresses.

Mike Katz, President of Marketing, Strategy, and Products at T-Mobile US, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration, calling it a “pivotal moment” in making dead zones obsolete. Sara Spangelo, Sr. Director of Satellite Engineering at SpaceX, looks forward to expanding Direct to Cell with global partner operators, including KDDI, Optus, One NZ, and Canada’s Rogers, while keeping the invitation open for more telcos to join the revolutionary alliance.

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