After the CEOs of SpaceX and T-Mobile US announced a satellite-to-phone service with much fanfare in 2022, a beta test scheduled for H2 of this year appears to be grounded.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (pictured, right) and T-Mobile US boss Mike Sievert (pictured, left) announced a plan to offer basic services to mobile phones using the operator’s mid-band PCS spectrum and Starlink’s second generation satellites.
When asked about the status of the beta, a T-Mobile representative told Mobile World Live (MWL) it “had nothing to share at this time”.
Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner told MWL a constraint for launching satellite-to-phone services which go beyond SOS or SMS messaging is a lack of availability on SpaceX’s rockets.
“Your limiting factor for all of the satellite services is that SpaceX is not launching satellites because they had some [rockets] blow up.”
Entner stated T-Mobile may still have a first-mover advantage for offering a full satellite-to-phone service because those launched to date are limited to basic messaging from existing birds to devices featuring the latest Qualcomm and MediaTek electronics.
“Messaging is the least hard thing to do,” he stated.
Tim Farrar, president at TMF Associates, told MWL SpaceX last week requested special temporary authority (STA) to launch the first batch of its second-generation test satellites in December.
It sought approval covering non-geostationary satellites for 60 days with direct-to-mobile communications payloads to connect unmodified phones.
Farrar noted the STA request is limited to a few specified sites across the US, many of which are the offices of various companies in the mobile industry.
“So, no beta trial, at least not public, anytime soon,” he stated, adding tests may commence in early 2024 if the Federal Communications Commission “grants a licence”.