SpaceX has stated that its cellular satellite service will begin testing in 2023. At a panel discussion at the Satellite Conference and Exhibition, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink enterprise sales, announced the shift. During the meeting, Hofeller stated that the company intends to “begin testing” its satellite-to-cellular service “this year.”
The timeline is not unexpected. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert unveiled “Coverage Above and Beyond” in August 2022, a new partnership that will use SpaceX to offer satellite access to compatible T-Mobile phones. The technology, which aims to eliminate dead zones, would allow compatible devices with the carrier to connect to a Starlink satellite while they are not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular service.
Next panel up at #SATShow is about sat-to-cell, with:
ST Engineering iDirect CEO Don Claussen
Iridium CEO Matt Desch
SpaceX VP of Starlink enterprise sales Jonathan Hofeller
Lynk Global CEO Charles Miller pic.twitter.com/owdnTKZufa
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) March 13, 2023
Unlike Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite function, which only allows iPhone 14 users to connect to a satellite to report an emergency scenario, SpaceX and T-Mobile announced that their service will support SMS, MMS, and messaging via popular apps such as iMessage. According to the corporations, this is just the beginning, with ambitions to someday supply phones and data no matter where you are.
Elon Musk did highlight at the time that the service will not support cloud gaming, stating that “connectivity will be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, thus will work wonderfully for texting & phone calls, but not high bandwidth.” It appears to be a sensible restriction.
Hofeller did not directly state that the company has begun testing with T-Mobile, but it is not a stretch to assume that. If you want to watch the entire SpaceX and T-Mobile event, you may do so below on YouTube:
SpaceX has already begun testing a global roaming service for Starlink users. Starlink Aviation, the company’s satellite internet service for airplanes, was also just launched. Each of these services is already available to clients, substantially expanding Starlink’s range.