On December 6, SpaceX filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It seeks approval to begin equipping some of its Starlink satellites with “direct-to-cellular” hardware. And regulatory consent is needed to link the Starlink service to T-Mobile, in order to connect smartphones to the satellite system.
According to the FCC filing the effort to create a direct-to-cellular Earth-to-space system will allow Starlink “to provide voice, messaging, and basic web browsing at theoretical peak speeds of up to either 3.0 Mbps or 7.2 Mbps peak upload… and up to either 4.4 Mbps or 18.3Mbps on the downlink.”
SpaceX and T-Mobile connect smartphones
This is the first step in opening up a partnership between the two communications giants. In late August, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk released an announcement that the companies would connect their two data networks.
Currently, SpaceX has 3,500 first-generation Starlinks in-service. And that’s about 20% of what they need to offer “full and continuous” smartphone coverage via T-Mobile.