Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite operator SpaceX plans to begin testing its Starlink satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile US later this year, an executive at Elon Musk’s company revealed this week. Speaking during a panel at the Satellite 2023 conference in Washington DC, Jonathan Hofeller, Vice President of Starlink Sales, was quoted as saying: ‘We’re going to learn a lot by doing – not necessarily by overanalysing – and getting out there.’ SpaceX has launched about 4,000 Starlink satellites to date and reached the one million fixed broadband subscriptions milestone in December 2022.
Back in August 2022 T-Mobile and SpaceX unveiled their ‘Coverage Above and Beyond’ initiative, which seeks to leverage Starlink’s 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 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.