The service will “save lives”, said billionaire Elon Musk, taking the example of lost hikers who are currently unable to call for help.
SpaceX satellites will connect directly to T-Mobile phones to provide telephone network to the most isolated places, beyond the range of cell towers, the firm of Elon Musk and the German telecoms giant announced on Thursday.
The new service, which will use SpaceX’s thousands of Starlink satellites already in orbit and work on existing phones, will start by enabling the sending and receiving of text messages from late 2023, while voice services are expected to follow.
“The important thing is that this means that there will be no more white zones anywhere in the world for your phone,” Elon Musk said at an event at SpaceX’s Starbase site in Texas.
“A cell tower in the sky”
Although satellite Internet access has existed for several years, users currently require specialized equipment, such as Starlink terminals.
The service “won’t have the kind of bandwidth that a Starlink terminal would have, but will allow texting, pictures, and if there aren’t too many people in the mobile area, you might even potentially have some video,” Elon Musk said.
T-Mobile boss Mike Sievert said he expects the service to be included for free on most current subscription plans, but there may be a surcharge for users on subscriptions to lowest cost.
The service will initially be offered to US customers, but T-Mobile is expected to expand it to other markets in the future, Mike Sievert said. “It’s like putting a relay antenna in the sky. But much more complicated,” he also explained.