On Thursday, Elon Musk appeared on stage with T-Mobile CEO Mike Seifert to announce that SpaceX is working with the carrier to Complete elimination of cellular dead zones. The companies claim that Starlink’s next-generation satellite, due to launch next year, will be able to communicate directly with phones, allowing you to send text messages, make calls and possibly broadcast video even when there are no cell towers nearby. Furthermore, Musk promised that all this is possible with the phones people use today, without the need to purchase any additional hardware.
It’s a bold announcement from the carrier – neither Verizon nor AT&T offer anything like it. However, SpaceX and T-Mobile aren’t the only companies looking to use satellites to communicate directly with mobile phones using existing cellular spectrum. for years A company called AST SpaceMobile promised it would send broadband to phones from space, and a company called Lynk Global has already shown It can use its satellite “cell towers” 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 play a similar game – but it turns out that’s not the case at all. They seem really happy.
Who is competing with SpaceX and T-Mobile in satellite-to-phone technology?
Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk, said in an interview with the edge. We got all kinds of carrier calls today like ‘Help us!’
Lynk’s initial goal is similar to SpaceX’s – it’s partnering with a number of carriers around the world to allow its customers to send text messages using a network of satellites that are currently under construction. Like the T-Mobile presentation, Miller particularly emphasized the importance of technology during emergencies and natural disasters, when things like hurricanes, wildfires, floods, or earthquakes can destroy traditional cell networks. “It’s flexibility. It’s an instant backup that works for everyone on Earth. Your phones, even if the towers are down, can communicate.” “This will save lives.”
Miller is very similar to Sifte Stadium and Musk, but he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about competing in the same space (pun intended) as them. Part of his confidence comes from Lynk being an early market leader – he claims that in early 2020, he became the first to Sending a text message from space to an unmodified cell phone. “We think there will be more big companies jumping in. They have years and years ahead. They are years behind us,” he said. “We’ll be like, ‘Wow! Teach the world that this technology is dead. And when we start rolling it out at the end of this year, people are going,’ “I want it. They won’t want to wait years for it.”
Scott Wisniewski, executive vice president and director of strategy at AST, echoed the sentiment. Our CEO actually tweet“We are happy that they are focusing on this real big market and this real big need,” he said. And it was comforting to hear people say things like technology works for them,” he said. He also predicted that the satellite-to-phone communications market would likely not be the winner of everything. “In terms of the overall market, there will be many winners in our opinion.”
Elon and Mike have helped the world focus attention on the massive market opportunities for SpaceMobile, the only planned satellite cellular broadband network. The BlueWalker 3, which has a 693-square-foot matrix, is due to be released within weeks! #5 g
– AbelAvellan August 26, 2022
The AST service is perhaps more ambitious than T-Mobile has announced. Seifert said he hopes that one day T-Mobile can deliver data via SpaceX satellites, where AST’s explicit goal is to operate 4G and 5G networks. She’s betting that the idea of broadband will be more attractive than just being able to text and make calls from remote locations. “We all really understand that phones can go out of service frequently, or coverage may be poor. And that was a point that T-Mobile made. So our solution is really attractive in that regard,” Wisniewski said.
Where SpaceX and T-Mobile’s plan is largely limited to the US and its territories – the wireless spectrum SpaceX uses for its service is owned and operated by other companies and agencies internationally, so additional deals are necessary to operate anywhere outside the states United – AST and Lynk have global aspirations. AST obtained an investment and exclusive five-year agreement with Vodafone, one of the largest cell providers in the world, and also received investment from Rakuten, mobile company in japan. Miller says Lynk is testing its service in 10 countries “as we speak” and is able to make it available in dozens more.
Even the timing of the T-Mobile and SpaceX announcement is perfect for AST and Lynk, they say. The first is preparing to launch an experimental satellite in a few weeks (using Five more scheduled for 2023), and the latter plans to launch its commercial service with 14 network operators by the end of the year. If there ever was a perfect time for consumers to become very interested in exactly what you’re working on, you’d probably be on the verge of making a big first step.
How Apple and iPhone 14 rumors fit into this puzzle
However, Tim Farrar, an analyst at research and advisory firm focused on satellites and communications, Telecom, Media and Finance Associates, believes that T-Mobile’s timing may be due to another huge competitor about to enter the market – a competitor that could have AST advantages. SpaceX and Lynk don’t. “The problem will be what will happen with Apple next week,” he said, referring to rumors that the upcoming iPhone May be able to communicate With the Globalstar satellite network for emergency purposes.
If that happens, he says, iPhone users may get this feature very soon, and in a version that includes international support from the start. “I think what is likely if Apple announces something next week, it will be something that is ready to go as soon as the phone is available. Because if they partner with Globalstar, Globalstar already has 24 satellites operating in space that you can communicate with, they have licenses with the FCC and many more of other international jurisdictions.
This last part is especially important. All Apple has to do, according to Farrar, is get the equipment licensed from the FCC through a “simple and well-defined” process, and it’s out of the races. For other companies – including SpaceX – that want to transmit from space using spectrum licensed by cellular carriers, it’s not so easy. Historically, satellites used the spectrum of satellites, and cell towers used the terrestrial spectrum. But Farrar says the satellite-to-cell technology blends the two in a way that the rules don’t currently allow. “It’s a big regulatory change that the FCC has to make. And that’s something they’ve been thinking about for two years and haven’t really come up with a solution.”
T-Mobile’s competitors may try to find a way to prevent SpaceX from using the carrier’s spectrum, which could complicate matters further. “There will be a lot of fighting about the use of terrestrial spectrum on the satellite,” Farrar said. “there Intervention concerns have already been made It was voiced when AST was looking to partner with AT&T to try out its system. None of the major wireless carriers want their competitors to take advantage of the advantage. Obviously, people would protest against any app for using T-Mobile’s spectrum on satellites. The FCC will have to make a decision, which may not be reached very quickly.”
In fact, Miller wouldn’t really talk about Spectrum, saying that Link had an “open problem” with it. Wisniewski said one of AST’s plans to deal with spectrum issues is to work with carriers to get approval from regulators. He also said that the nature of providing the service where it does not currently exist could make things a little easier. “We share spectrum with mobile operators on a non-interference basis where there are no towers.”
While AST has regulatory approval for commercial operation in seven countries, according to Wisniewski, only the FCC has authorized it. Test its satellite To provide the Service to the United States on a trial basis.
For SpaceX and T-Mobile, their plans are ways out, giving companies time to try to work things out with regulators — they don’t even expect to start testing their service until the end of next year.
If one company can hack a phone that connects to satellite networks, it will probably help all the other companies. For example, if Tim Cook On stage on September 7 And he declares that you can send emergency messages via satellite from the iPhone 14, so many people who don’t use iPhones will get jealous real quick. This could add to pressure on the FCC to allow satellite technology to the phone for carriers and their satellite communications partners. And if T-Mobile owns it, you know AT&T and Verizon will be making some calls. (Farrar thinks other phone makers not as powerful as Apple or Samsung will have a hard time offering a similar feature — carriers could fight it off, arguing that their phones should only use the carrier’s satellite capabilities instead.)
Verizon specifically actually does Already an agreement for satellite communication, albeit in a different form. It’s a partnership with Amazon’s Kuiper Project, which aims to create a satellite constellation similar to SpaceX. Instead of making a direct satellite-to-phone connection, though, Verizon’s plan is to feed remote cell towers with satellite service rather than having to run fiber or cable on them. During Thursday’s event, Seifert said T-Mobile was open to the possibility of doing something similar with SpaceX.
Neither Verizon nor Amazon responded the edgeHe asked for comment on whether they would adjust their plans based on the announcement by T-Mobile and SpaceX.
For AST and Lynk, neither company is particularly interested in competition on this front. “You don’t need to build these remote cell towers if your phone is already connected by satellite,” Miller said.
Elon Musk took the cat from satellite to phone from the bag
At this point, only one thing seems crystal clear: T-Mobile and SpaceX have left the genie out of the bottle. They’ve announced, loudly, that your phone will soon be able to connect to satellites, allowing you at least some level of connectivity even when you’re in areas that have traditionally been completely isolated.
There are a lot of ways that things could go from here — AST tests can show that, yes, you can really send relatively fast internet to phones from space and elevate what consumers want higher than what T-Mobile and SpaceX have set is-it. Or maybe regulators can suddenly figure things out, and let Lynk pounce before T-Mobile drops out of beta. And of course, there’s always the possibility that everyone could fall into a huge regulatory mess, allowing Apple to come in and do their own thing with an entirely different kind of technology.
Whatever happens in the end, people now know that it is possible for the phones currently in their pocket to talk to a satellite. And as Miller said, now that I see it and know technology is on its way soon, I want it — no matter what satellites my phone has to talk to.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”