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Updated January 4th, 2024 at 12:13 IST

SpaceX deploys 6 Starlink satellites for direct cell phone connectivity

Last month, SpaceX secured approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct these tests, which will span 180 days.

Business Desk
SpaceX
Falcon 9 rocket | Image:SpaceX
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Direct cell phone connectivity from satellites: SpaceX has started its venture into direct-to-cellular connectivity by launching the first set of Starlink satellites specifically designed for this purpose. The deployment included six Starlink satellites with cellular connectivity capabilities, along with 15 additional Starlink satellites, launched with a Falcon 9 rocket. For this, SpaceX has collaborated with US-based telecom provider T-Mobile for testing.

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Image credit: Starlink

Last month, SpaceX secured approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct these tests, which will span 180 days. The initiative aims to evaluate 840 satellites transmitting 4G connectivity to approximately 2,000 unmodified smartphones. Described as ‘cell phone towers in space,’ these satellites point towards SpaceX's plans to integrate global mobile connectivity. 

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Additional regulatory approvals required

According to Starlink's official website, texting services are projected to roll out within the current year, while voice and data services are slated for introduction in 2025. Concurrently, SpaceX must secure additional regulatory approvals before launching commercial operations, including connectivity for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

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While SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expressed optimism about the project's potential to extend mobile connectivity globally, he acknowledged its limitations compared to established terrestrial cellular networks. 

Despite these constraints, the initiative underlines a competitive space, with companies like Lynk, Amazon's Project Kuiper, and AST SpaceMobile also vying for a foothold in the direct-to-cell market. Notably, Kuiper has previously announced a collaboration with Verizon, while AST SpaceMobile has partnered with telecom giants such as AT&T and Vodafone.

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Published January 4th, 2024 at 12:06 IST

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