SpaceX has achieved a major milestone in providing cell service from space. On January 8th, the company successfully sent and received its first text messages using T-Mobile’s network spectrum through new Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities, check out SpaceX starlink page.
Last week, SpaceX launched six satellites equipped with the breakthrough Direct to Cell technology. These satellites can connect directly to cell phones on the ground without requiring intermediary ground infrastructure.
Amazingly, just six days after launch, the Starlink team used these satellites to send the first texts to and from unmodified mobile phones down below. As SpaceX stated, “This validates that our link budget closes, and the system works!”
The company was able to pull this off by leveraging the existing Starlink satellite network, new Direct to Cell satellites simply plug into the constellation using laser backhauls. This means they can provide service globally with regulatory approval, without needing dedicated ground stations.
SpaceX can also tap into the substantial networking, ground stations and connection points already established for Starlink internet service. Direct to Cell data travels over Starlink’s core backbone directly to the cell provider’s core network. The result is seamless integration.
By partnering with T-Mobile and utilizing its mid-band spectrum, SpaceX aims to eliminate mobile dead zones across the United States and provide coverage anywhere a customer can see the sky. This would revolutionize connectivity.
Sending texts directly from space to phones on the ground is an important proof of concept. It demonstrates that the laser links, networking and spectrum sharing performs as intended. While still early, it’s a huge leap towards deploying this technology more broadly.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the goal of enabling people to live on other planets. But services like Starlink and Direct to Cell have the more immediate impact of connecting people right here on Earth. It will be exciting to see how rapidly mobile coverage expands as more of these game-changing satellites reach orbit.