T-Mobile US and SpaceX have announced a plan to leverage the latter’s Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation and T-Mobile’s cellular network to provide ‘near complete coverage in most places in the US – even in many of the most remote locations previously unreachable by traditional cell signals.’ The ‘Coverage Above and Beyond’ project aims to provide mobile phone coverage in ‘well over half a million square miles of the US in addition to vast stretches of ocean’ currently unserved by mobile networks, highlighting that large areas are unserved due to land-use restrictions (e.g. National Parks), terrain limits (e.g. mountains, deserts, etc.) and the sheer size of the country. Costly satellite phone services are currently the only option in many of these areas.
The companies declared they will create a new network, broadcast from Starlink’s satellites using T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum nationwide for a ‘true satellite-to-cellular service’. Most smartphones already on T-Mobile’s network will be compatible with the new service.
A beta launch is planned for selected areas by the end of next year after SpaceX’s planned satellite launches, initially providing SMS texting, MMS and participating messaging apps, with coverage to be expanded ‘practically everywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico and territorial waters’. Subsequently the partners plan to add voice and internet/data coverage.
T-Mobile US and SpaceX also shared their vision for expanding Coverage Above and Beyond globally, issuing an open invitation to carriers to collaborate for ‘truly global connectivity.’