Elon Musk wants to connect ordinary smartphones to Starlink’s satellite internet

The new satellite communications service was announced at the SpaceX launch pad, in front of the Starship prototypes.  This rocket with a very large carrying capacity must, according to Elon Musk, be used to put into orbit the new satellites necessary for the maintenance of the service.

Allow to make calls or send SMS in high mountains, at sea and from all other areas of the globe where there is no telephone network, by giving the possibility to ordinary telephones to communicate directly with satellites. This is the new fad of Elon Musk, the boss of Starlink (and Tesla), who announced, Thursday, August 25, the opening of a satellite communication service intended for smartphones by 2024 in the United States. , in partnership with T-Mobile, one of the world’s largest telephone operators.

To achieve this, new types of satellites will be added to the Starlink constellation, an Internet service provider which already has several thousand of them. These will behave like “cellular communication towers in the sky”, capable of communicating with most current 5G smartphones, around the 2.5 kilohertz (kHz) radio band.

The challenge is not small, because, unlike telephone towers, Starlink satellites revolve at a speed of 27,000 kilometers per hour, at a distance of 550 kilometers from Earth. On Earth, telephone towers only reach ten kilometers. To successfully connect to the Internet via the current Starlink constellation, you need a satellite dish.

giant antenna

To connect quite ordinary smartphones to its new satellites, Sarlink is working on modifying their space antenna, “ larger and extremely sophisticated Mr. Musk said on stage. If this antenna is still only a laboratory prototype, the boss of Starlink is ” convinced it will work once in space. According to him, the connection will be established even when the smartphone is in your pocket. More cautious, the chairman and CEO of T-Mobile predicts that the service will work when we have “a clear view of the sky”.

Initially, the service will be limited to sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages. Later, it will be able to carry telephone conversations and data – at slow speed, since the users connected to a satellite will share an expected bandwidth of 2 to 4 megabytes per second. Enough to convey, according to Mr. Musk, one to two thousand simultaneous calls, or several hundred thousand text messages.

This offer will compete with existing messaging, telephony or satellite alert services, such as Cospas-Sarsat, Spot, Inreach, Iridium, etc. Services that have a weakness: they all require the purchase of a specific communication device costing between 300 and 1,000 euros.

Lower fares

Starlink’s new service will be included in T-Mobile’s premium plans for free, but paid for on budget plans. According to the T-Mobile CEO, message prices will be significantly lower than existing satellite offerings – which vary widely in price but cost around $50 per month for messaging services from Spot and Inreach.

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On stage, the CEO of T-Mobile called on the world’s largest operators to contact him in order to generalize the satellite connection offer to all continents, within the framework of his roaming partnerships.

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