SpaceX Details Starlink Cell Service with Rogers as Canadian Partner

CleanShot 2023 10 11 at 09 20 14

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched a new website to provide details on its forthcoming “Starlink Direct to Cell” service, with plans for a comprehensive launch by 2025, reports Tesla North.

The website states that the service will offer “ubiquitous access to texting, calling, and browsing” across a variety of terrains, including land, lakes, and coastal waters.

According to the website, text services are slated to begin in 2024, followed by voice and data services in 2025. IoT connectivity is also planned for a 2025 launch. Designed to be compatible with existing LTE phones, the service requires no hardware or firmware modifications.

Before the service can officially launch, SpaceX must secure approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The company is actively lobbying for swift clearance to use the necessary radio bands. However, it faces opposition from other companies, including Dish Network and Apple partner Globalstar.

The Starlink Direct to Cell service is set to compete with Apple’s satellite-based Emergency SOS feature and a similar offering from AST Space Mobile. But while Apple’s satellite service is for emergencies only, the Starlink service will act as a main communication tool when in far away places.

The Starlink website provides additional technical details, stating that the satellites will be equipped with an “advanced eNodeB modem,” effectively serving as a “cellphone tower in space.” This will allow for network integration similar to standard roaming partners and aims to eliminate connectivity dead zones, particularly in remote areas.

SpaceX plans to leverage its expertise in rocket and spacecraft manufacturing to deploy these Direct to Cell satellites at scale. Initial launches will be conducted using SpaceX’s reliable Falcon 9 rocket, followed eventually by Starship. Once in orbit, the satellites will connect over laser backhaul to the existing Starlink constellation to provide global connectivity.

The company is also seeking partnerships with other cellular providers and has included a contact form on the new website for interested companies. “Cellular providers using Direct to Cell have access to reciprocal global access in all partner nations,” says SpaceX. That would imply that a Rogers customer could also use their Starlink cell service across the globe on partner networks.

Global partners listed on the website for the Starlink Direct to Cell service include T-Mobile (USA), Optus (Australia), and Rogers representing Canada, along with One NZ (New Zealand), KDDI (Japan), and Salt (Switzerland).

Back in April, Rogers announced it would partner with SpaceX and Lynk Global to offer cell coverage across all of Canada. Last month, Rogers also made a SpaceX announcement, noting it would leverage the latter’s Swarm satellite sensors to help detect wildfires in B.C.

SpaceX first announced in August 2022 that a satellite cell service was coming with partner T-Mobile. The company said it was expected to debut in 2023 but that has yet to materialize, and now the 2024 debut seems to be the new timeline.

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