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. Now last night SpaceX launched the first satellites for its joint venture to allow T-Mobile customers to make calls and send texts no matter where they are as long as they have line of site to the sky.
“Our mission is to be the best in the world at connecting customers to their world and today is another step forward in keeping our customers connected even in the most remote locations for added peace of mind when they need it most,” said Mike Katz, President of Marketing, Strategy and Products, T-Mobile. “Today’s launch is a pivotal moment for this groundbreaking alliance with SpaceX and our global partners around the world, as we work to make dead zones a thing of the past.”
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.
“The launch of these first Direct to Cell satellites is an exciting milestone for SpaceX to demonstrate our technology,” said Dr. Sara Spangelo, Sr. Director of Satellite Engineering. “We look forward to rapidly scaling up Direct to Cell with our partner operators around the world and rolling out messaging service for T-Mobile customers!”
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.