SpaceX on Monday was partially cleared by the Federal Communications Commission to start deploying its cellular Starlink system for short tests.
The company still needs full FCC approval to begin offering the satellite cellular system to U.S. customers but has already filed a separate pending application to test the technology over 840 satellites as soon as next week.
In addition, last month SpaceX announced its third-generation satellites could launch next year.
This comes after SpaceX asked the FCC in October for permission to launch its Gen2 satellites to connect a regular cell phone call. Its efforts to get into space-based cellular communications has been hampered by objections from AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association, which expressed concern the tests may cause interference with existing systems.
The partial approval is the latest in the spacecraft manufacturer’s goal of global connectivity. The ability to make a phone call by connecting an everyday smartphone to a low-earth orbit satellite could eliminate dead zones and further provide reliable, quality connectivity in even the most remote areas of the world.
SpaceX’s modified Gen2 Starlink satellites, designed to provide connectivity to T-Mobile phones, will operate within the mobile carrier’s 1910-1915 MHz and 1990-1995 MHz bands, or the PCS G Block.
Per the ruling, SpaceX must “check out of the antennas immediately following deployment of each satellite for a period of 10 days or less, to ensure initial functionality of the satellite antenna.”
The FCC also wants to ensure that the tests don’t cause radio interference. If there’s any disruption, the FCC said SpaceX must “cease operations immediately.”
The FCC and SpaceX weren’t immediately available for comment.