Elon Musk’s internet company, Starlink, said plans are in top gear to roll out services that will allow mobile phones to connect directly to its satellites.
According to the information released on its website, the service is to begin with texting which will be launched in 2024, while voice, data, and IoT services are expected to launch in 2025. Starlink said people will not need to change their phones when the service is launched as it will work with current 4G-enabled devices.
With this, Starlink will launch new satellites that will function like telecom base stations providing communication services anywhere in the world. This will also require the company to obtain a mobile operating licence in any country it wants to deliver the service.
Starlink is promising the world access to communication services anywhere in the world with this new proposition.
- “Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities enable ubiquitous access to texting, calling, and browsing wherever you may be on land, lakes, or coastal waters,” it said.
- “Direct to Cell works with existing LTE phones wherever you can see the sky. No changes to hardware, firmware, or special apps are required, providing seamless access to text, voice, and data,” the company added.
Powered by SpaceX
Starlink said SpaceX will be leveraging its experience in manufacturing and launching the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft to deploy Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capability at scale.
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- “Direct to Cell satellites will initially be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and then Starship. On orbit, the satellites will immediately connect over laser backhaul to the Starlink constellation to provide global connectivity,” it said.
For now, the company is advertising the new functionality to its business partners, allowing network integration similar to a standard roaming partner. Broad satellite coverage enables connectivity in remote regions where cellular coverage may not be viable.
What it means
These new capabilities, when launched, will mean that Starlink which came into Nigeria this year as an Internet Service Provider (ISPs) will soon be competing directly with mobile telecommunication companies, like MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile, that are providing services with ground equipment.
However, the company will still need to obtain another licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to offer this service in Nigeria.
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In the US, Starlink signed an agreement with T-Mobile. With the new technology, T-Mobile expects to give customers text coverage practically everywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and territorial waters.
In April, Rogers Communications in Canada announced that satellite-to-phone coverage will work with all 5G and 4G smartphones once commercially available.
An emergency services upgrade via texting is mentioned as one of the use cases. A similar satellite service, dubbed Emergency SOS, is already offered for iPhone users.