A year ago, T-Mobile and SpaceX unveiled a partnership to combine the former’s spectrum with the latter’s network of low orbit satellites for more comprehensive wireless coverage, an initiative they coined “Coverage Above and Beyond.” Now, SpaceX has launched a website looking for other mobile providers who want to use their network to offer texts, calls, and LTE data from space.
The idea with T-Mobile is to build a separate network connected by SpaceX’s Starlink low-earth orbit satellites that would run on a swath of radio airwaves owned by T-Mobile. This network would complement T-Mobile’s own more traditional cellular network. Because that frequency of spectrum is already supported on many popular phones, it would make for a seamless benefit to most users once it goes live. The companies had targeted beta trials at the end of this year following the launch of Starlink V2 satellites, according to CNET.
In July, David Goldman, vice president of satellite policy at SpaceX, sent a letter to the FCC extolling the benefits of the partnership and how it would protect other spectrums users. He urged the agency to approve the modifications of its second-generation satellites to enable wireless coverage.
“SpaceX and T-Mobile look forward to making the promise of ubiquitous mobile coverage a reality, and appreciate the Commission’s stated commitment to expeditiously process applications for direct-to-cellular capabilities while it considers longer-term rules,” Goldman said.
That letter touched off the latest objection from Omnispace, which is building its own hybrid satellite-ground network to provide 5G and Internet of Things connectivity. Omnispace filed its response and shared a presentation questioning the safety of the proposed SpaceX system. The issues include SpaceX’s consideration of the potential interference from one satellite, as opposed to the impact that comes from the entire network of satellites, as well as the amount of noise interference.
“Using SpaceX’s own questionable antenna performance numbers, and by its own admission, SpaceX interference will be equal to or greater than the noise floor based upon the real noise floor and number of satellites in view,” the company said in the presentation.
T-Mobile is hoping to test this technology in December, making calls using SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Now if that works it may get others to join in and help build networks that would eliminate dead spots.
For now, Starlink is hoping to find more mobile providers who will join T-Mobile in building this service.
Roger Cheng contributed to this story.