On Thursday evening, SpaceX and T-Mobile launched an ambitious plan to give ubiquitous access from space to anyone who possesses a cell phone. The project would combine the Starlink satellite technology developed by SpaceX with the mid-band spectrum, mobile network, and massive customer base that T-Mobile US possesses. T-Mobile US is the second largest wireless carrier in the United States.
In order for SpaceX to finish the creation of its second generation of Starlink satellites, which will be required for the delivery of Internet service from space to the ground to mobile phones, These will be quite a little bigger than the ones that are now being used, which have a total mass of approximately 295 kg. Elon Musk, creator and chief engineer of SpaceX, has stated that the project may enter “beta service” prior to the year 2023 coming to a close.
During a live event that took place at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas, where the firm is developing and testing its next-generation Starship rocket, Elon Musk made an appearance with Mike Sievert, the chief executive officer of T-Mobile US. The event had a feel similar to that of a rock concert, complete with a smoke machine, fireworks, and a large number of individuals wearing black T-shirts and socializing around the stage. The only difference was that these shirts included logos for T-Mobile and SpaceX in magenta and white, respectively, while the background featured three Starship prototypes.
At the moment, a user of SpaceX’s Starlink service is required to possess a terminal in the shape of a dish that is able to retrieve broadband Internet from one of the 2,800 Starlink satellites that are located in low Earth orbit. Existing satellites just do not have the power necessary to establish a connection with much more compact mobile phones because the signal is too faint.
The implementation of a phased array antenna that is far more potent on the Starlink satellites that are in the second generation, also known as V2, is the answer to this issue. Musk stated that the body of these satellites would be approximately 7 meters in length, and the antenna would stretch out to be approximately 5 meters on each side, which would equal nearly 25 square meters. This antenna will transmit and receive information along a focussed beam that travels across the surface of the earth as the satellite travels overhead.
At least, in the beginning, the service would not offer broadband Internet access to its customers. It should be able to offer up to 2 to 4 megabits of data in a normal cell service, which is sufficient for thousands of phone calls or millions of text messages. This would make it possible to maintain connectivity in locations that are not connected to the grid, as well as in crisis scenarios, such as when a cyclone knocks off service to a community.
The mobile device of a user would initially look for service from a cell phone tower; however, if it did not detect this, the device would then search the sky for service rather than indicating to the user that there was no service available. After then, it would obtain connectivity from the satellite that was geographically closest to it, and software running on the satellite would communicate with the mobile phone in the same manner as if it were a virtual cell tower located on the ground.
Sievert stated that T-Mobile intended to provide this service to its customers on most of its existing plans at no additional cost. The service would initially cover the United States, which would include Alaska and Hawaii, in addition to a significant portion of the oceans around the world. He extended an invitation to international mobile network providers, saying that T-Mobile and SpaceX would be a great partnership for them to enable reciprocal roaming all around the globe.