SpaceX on Tuesday launched a rocket carrying the first set of Starlink satellites that can beam signals directly to smartphones from space.
Elon Musk’s space company struck a deal with wireless carriers in August 2022 to provide phone users in “dead zones” with network access via its Starlink satellites.
One of the carriers, T-Mobile US, confirmed that the satellites, which were carried on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, were in low-Earth orbit this morning.
The direct-to-cell service will begin with text messaging, followed by voice and data capabilities in the coming years, T-Mobile said in a statement. Satellite service will not be available immediately to T-Mobile customers; the company said that field testing will begin “soon.”
SpaceX plans to scale up the project “rapidly,” according to Sara Spangelo, senior director of satellite engineering at SpaceX. “The launch of these first direct-to-cell satellites is an exciting milestone for SpaceX to demonstrate our technology,” she said.
Mike Katz, president of marketing, strategy and products at T-Mobile, said the service is designed to ensure users stay connected “even in the most remote locations.” He said he hoped dead zones would become “a thing of the past”.
Other wireless providers around the world, including Japan’s KDDI, Australia’s Optus, New Zealand’s One NZ and Canada’s Rogers will partner with SpaceX to launch direct-to-cell technology.