Elon Musk’s SpaceX and T-Mobile (TMUS) announced they will partner to make cell phone service available anywhere by decoupling the reliance on towers. SpaceX satellites will use T-Mobile spectrum and cell phones to connect users, even in locations that have no wireless service.
The companies will launch a pilot program to test texting functionality by the end of 2023. However, moving forward will require getting the green light from The Federal Communications Commission.
Musk advises bandwidth will be limited and the technology won’t replace existing earth-based services. He stated the goal is “to provide basic coverage to areas that are completely dead.” Longer-term, the companies envision expanding globally in partnership with international wireless companies
T-Mobile’s CEO Mike Sievert said he anticipates the majority of current cell phones could use the service, which would be included free on many of their plans. Due to limited bandwidth, initially only texting and messaging will be available.
The news will be cheered by people living in remote areas, where service may be expensive or non-existent. Adventurers who recreate in areas without Wi-Fi may see the service as a safety solution that would give them a way to request help in an emergency.
The proliferation of satellite launches by SpaceX, which primarily endeavors to offer its high-speed internet service known as Starlink, has NASA warning about crowding and the potential for collisions. Given that competitors have their own fleets of satellites planned for launch, the FCC will be busy parsing out the tradeoffs and risks.
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