SpaceX finally got the green light to conduct full tests of voice calls and data transfers between its satellites in space and unmodified smartphones on the ground.
The Elon Musk-owned rocket company received “experimental special temporary authorization” to conduct the test, which will used T-Mobile phones on the ground, PC Mag first reported. This follows the FCC last week granting partial clearance to test if its Gen2 Starlink satellites can broadcast radio signals, but limited any ground tests.
The approval marks the clearing of a large hurdle for SpaceX and T-Mobile’s ambitions to offer space-based coverage, which would significantly reduce the number of dead zones across the country, particularly in rural or out-of-reach areas. The approval comes a year and a half after T-Mobile and SpaceX made their splashy announcement about the project, with the two largely quiet on the matter as they awaited government clearance.
The project was met with resistance, particularly by the Rural Wireless Association and AT&T, which is testing its own-space based connection with smartphones. SpaceX had tried to circumvent this process earlier and get approval to run its tests faster, which AT&T and the RWA objected to. This new approval came after SpaceX went through the proper process.
SpaceX wasn’t immediately available to comment on the approval.
SpaceX plans to use 840 satellites and beam down signals to 2,000 devices. Test areas include Mountain View, California, San Diego, and Dallas.