SpaceX has successfully launched the first set of Starlink satellites equipped with Direct to Cell capabilities, in collaboration with T-Mobile. This launch is part of the Coverage Above and Beyond initiative, which aims to provide improved connectivity across the U.S. by targeting areas with inadequate cell coverage, also known as dead zones.
The significance of this milestone was highlighted by Mike Katz, President of Marketing, Strategy, and Products at T-Mobile, who stated that their mission is to connect customers to their world, even in remote locations. The newly launched satellites are now in low-Earth orbit and will be used for field testing a service that integrates SpaceX’s satellite capabilities with T-Mobile’s wireless network. This innovative approach aims to address the challenge of providing coverage in over half a million square miles of U.S. territory and vast oceanic stretches that are currently beyond the reach of terrestrial network coverage.
The service will eliminate the need for expensive satellite phones by enabling connectivity in almost any location with a clear view of the sky, using customers’ existing phones. Initially, the focus will be on text messaging, with plans to expand to voice and data coverage in the future.
Dr. Sara Spangelo, Sr. Director of Satellite Engineering at SpaceX, expressed excitement about the launch of these first Direct to Cell satellites and the opportunity to demonstrate their technology. The Coverage Above and Beyond initiative is not limited to the U.S., as T-Mobile and SpaceX have invited wireless providers globally to collaborate on this technology for universal coverage. Several international partners have already joined, including KDDI in Japan, Optus in Australia, One NZ in New Zealand, and Rogers in Canada.
Overall, this launch marks a significant step forward in improving mobile connectivity and addressing dead zones in the U.S. and beyond.