Author Topic: Satellite-to-phone companies are thrilled about SpaceX and T-Mobile, actually  (Read 595 times)

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Offline Elderberry

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The Verge by Mitchell Clark Aug 27, 2022

“We’ve been getting calls from all kinds of carriers”

On Thursday, Elon Musk got on stage with T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to announce that SpaceX is working with the carrier to completely eliminate cellular dead zones. The companies claim that next-generation Starlink satellites, set to launch next year, will be able to communicate directly with phones, letting you text, make calls, and potentially stream video even when there are no cell towers nearby. What’s more, Musk promised all this is possible with phones that people are using today, without consumers having to buy any extra equipment.

It’s a bold proclamation from the carrier — Verizon and AT&T don’t offer anything like it. However, SpaceX and T-Mobile aren’t the only companies looking to use satellites to directly communicate with cell phones using existing cell spectrum. For years a company called AST SpaceMobile has promised that it will beam broadband to phones from space, and a company called Lynk Global has already demonstrated that its satellite “cell towers” can be used to send text messages from regular phones. It’s easy to imagine that these companies would be afraid that two giants were suddenly looking to get in on a similar game — but it turns out that’s not the case at all. They actually seem delighted.

Who’s competing with SpaceX and T-Mobile in satellite-to-phone tech?

“We love the validation and the attention that this is bringing to this technology,” said Lynk’s CEO, Charles Miller, in an interview with The Verge. “We’ve been getting all kinds of calls of carriers today who are like ‘help us!’”

Lynk’s initial goal is similar to SpaceX’s — it’s partnering with a number of carriers around the world to let their customers send texts using a satellite network it’s currently in the process of building. Like T-Mobile’s presentation, Miller especially stressed the tech’s importance during emergencies and natural disasters, where things like hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, or earthquakes can take down traditional cell networks. “It’s resilience. It’s instant backup working for everybody on Earth. Your phones, even though the towers are down, can communicate,” he said. “This will save lives.”

Miller’s pitch is very similar to Sievert’s and Musk’s, but he doesn’t seem particularly worried about competing in the same space (pun intended) as them. Part of his confidence comes from Lynk being an early leader in the market — it claims that in early 2020, it became the first to send a text message to an unmodified cell phone from space. “We think there’s going to be more big companies jump in. They have years and years to go. They’re years behind us,” he said. “We’re going to be like ‘wonderful! Educate the world that this technology is done.’ And when we start rolling it out at the end of this year, people are going to go, ‘I want it.’ They’re not going to want to wait years for it.”