Science

Elon Musk wants to connect regular smartphones to Starlink satellite internet

The new satellite communications service was announced at the SpaceX launch pad in front of the Starship prototypes. This very large-capacity rocket should, according to Elon Musk, be used to put into orbit new satellites needed to service the service.

Allow calling or sending SMS in the highlands, on the sea and from all other places on the globe where there is no telephone network, allowing ordinary phones to communicate directly with satellites. This is a new fad of Elon Musk, the boss of Starlink (and Tesla), who announced on Thursday, August 25, the opening of a satellite communications service designed for smartphones in the United States by 2024 in partnership with T-Mobile. , one of the world’s largest telephone operators.

To do this, new types of satellites will be added to the Starlink constellation, an Internet provider that already has several thousand of them. They will behave like “cell towers in the sky” capable of communicating with most current 5G smartphones in the 2.5 kHz (kHz) radio band.

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

giant antenna

To connect everyday smartphones to its new satellites, Sarlink is working on a modification to its “larger and extremely complex” space antenna, Musk said onstage. If this antenna is still just a lab prototype, the Starlink boss is “convinced it will work” in space. According to him, the connection will be established even when the smartphone is in your pocket. More cautiously, the president and CEO of T-Mobile stipulates that the service will be operational when we have clear skies.

Initially, the service will be limited to sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages. Later, it will be able to transfer phone conversations and data – at low speeds, since users connected to the satellite will share the expected bandwidth of 2 to 4 megabytes per second. It is enough to send, according to Mr. Musk, from one to two thousand simultaneous calls or several hundred thousand text messages.

This offer will compete with existing messaging, telephony or satellite announcement services such as Cospas-Sarsat, Spot, Inreach, Iridium, etc. Services that have one drawback: they all require the purchase of a specific communication device costing from 300 to 1000 euros.

Lower rates

The new Starlink service will be included in T-Mobile’s premium plans for free, but paid for in budget plans. Messaging prices will be significantly lower than existing satellite offerings, which vary widely in price but cost about $50 a month for messaging services from Spot and Inreach, according to T-Mobile’s CEO.

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On stage, T-Mobile’s CEO called on the world’s largest carriers to contact him to expand the satellite offering to all continents as part of his roaming partnership.

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