SpaceX launches first set of satellites aimed at providing global cellphone coverage


SpaceX has launched its first set of direct-to-cell Starlink satellites that intend to provide “mobile connectivity anywhere on Earth.”

The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that the new satellites will be “a great solution for locations with no cellular connectivity” but warned that due to only supporting less than 7 MB per beam, connectivity is not yet “meaningfully competitive with existing terrestrial cellular networks.”

This essentially means that while the new satellites help fulfill Musk‘s goal of delivering internet access to people around the world who don’t have direct access to high-speed internet, they are not yet a suitable alternative to your everyday network usage.

According to Starlink‘s website, their satellites with direct-to-cell capabilities enable ubiquitous access to texting, calling, and browsing wherever you may be on land, lakes, or coastal waters. Direct-to-cell connectivity will work with all existing LTE (4G mobile connection) phones “wherever you can see the sky.” No hardware or firmware updates are required.

Starlink describes its satellite network as a “cellphone tower in space” and promises network integration similar to a standard partner.

SpaceX has initially launched the direct-to-cell satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket before Starship will take over. The satellites will then immediately “connect over laser backhaul” to the Starlink constellation, which will result in global connectivity, even in the most rural of areas on the planet.

Starlink has grown a network of roughly 5,000 satellites since 2019, becoming the world’s largest satellite operator in the world. In November last year, Musk announced the company had achieved cash-flow breakeven, as reported by Reuters, which comes after he announced in 2021 he planned to take the business public once its cash flow was predictable.

When will Starlink’s direct-to-cell be available?

The Washington-based company has set out a timeline for when it expects each feature to be functional following the launch of its new satellites.

It expects texting capabilities to be working this year, while voice, data, and roaming are due in 2025.

Featured Image: SpaceX, via X

James Jones

James Jones is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator, with over a decade of experience writing news and features for a variety of online publications.

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