Mobile World Live brings you our top three picks of the week, as SpaceX launched the first Starlink satellites able to offer direct-to-device services, BT missed a UK government deadline to remove Huawei equipment and EchoStar completed its merger with Dish Network.

First Starlink sat-to-phone birds leave launchpad

What happened: Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s first sat-to-phone birds were put into orbit, enabling mobile phone coverage directly to standard smartphones to improve global connectivity.

Why it matters: With a strong roster of initial customers set to use direct-to-device Starlink services, including T-Mobile US, Australia’s Optus and Japan’s KDDI, SpaceX’s launch represents a major moment for the satellite communications industry. However, Musk was keen to temper expectations, pointing out that while the service was a great solution for locations with no mobile connectivity, “it is not meaningfully competitive with existing terrestrial cellular networks”.

BT close to Huawei removal but misses deadline

What happened: BT failed to hit a deadline to completely remove Huawei equipment from its network core, although the company claimed it has completed 99 per cent of the necessary work.

Why it matters: BT stated only 2G and 3G voice and data services are yet to be migrated, which accounts for less than 1 per cent of total traffic, indicating it won’t be long before it has completed the job. However, by missing the deadline of 31 December 2023, the company is now on the hook for a fine of as much as £100,000 each day it goes over the timeline or a sum equating to 10 per cent of its revenue. BT said it would provide more information to Ofcom in March, as part of a statutory obligation to report on compliance with the regulation.

Dish Network, EchoStar seal reunion

What happened: Dish Network became a subsidiary of EchoStar around five months after the deal was announced, reuniting the duo which split in 2008.

Why it matters: With Dish pushing heavily into 5G in recent years to compete with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US, merging with EchoStar will no doubt help its cause. Dish has notably been strapped for cash and with access to EchoStar’s coffers it will now back itself to hit lofty FCC 5G coverage targets as well as ease a debt load that stands at more than $20 billion.