T-Mobile might soon make its first phone call from space. SpaceX has asked the Federal Communications Commission for 60 days of “Special Temporary Authority” to launch and test the company’s Gen2 satellites’ ability to connect a regular cellphone call.
“Direct-to-cell STA to launch and test its non-geostationary orbit NGSO second generation Gen2 satellites with direct-to-cellular communications payloads to connect unmodified cellular phones directly to SpaceX Gen2 satellites,” the filing’s description reads.
The ability to make a phone call by connecting the average smartphone to a low Earth orbit satellite is a boon for global connectivity. The connection could eliminate the notion of dead zones by providing reliable, quality connectivity in remote areas, perhaps for the first time. T-Mobile and SpaceX’s Starlink announced a 5G partnership in August, but it’s unclear at this time whether the projected December phone calls will be 5G.
“As Omnispace objections delay SpaceX’s application for D2D service yesterday, they requested Special Temporary Authorization with FCC to test their D2D payload with T-Mobile’s PCS G Block coordinate with various radio astronomers across multiple U.S. locations,” Megaconstellations said in a post.
In short, this means SpaceX and T-Mobile will test device-to-device, D2D, service over the mobile carrier’s 1910-1915 MHz and 1990-1995 MHz bands, or the PCS G Block.
Last month, AST SpaceMobile, a cellular satellite company backed by AT&T, used a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in a wireless dead zone in Maui, Hawaii, to call a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain. Between AT&T’s 5G spectrum, Nokia’s network core and AST SpaceMobile’s low Earth orbit satellite, BlueWalker 3, the cell signal reached its destination.
T-Mobile and SpaceX weren’t immediately available for comment.