T-Mobile says it is removing mobile dead zones thanks to a new partnership with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, on an event hosted by T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and Elon Musk.
According to Musk, second generation Starlink satellites launching next year will be able to broadcast a service using some of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum. The company says you can text, send MMS and even use “messaging apps” when you have a clear view of the sky, even if no traditional service is available. “If there aren’t too many people in the cell zone, you might even have a little bit of video,” Musk said.
The service will launch in beta next year, and Sievert says he hopes it will someday include data. He says T-Mobile’s “vision” at launch is for it to be included in the carrier’s “most popular plans” for free, though he did say today’s event is not an official announcement.
T-Mobile says current subscriber phones can use the network — no special equipment required. While there are rumors that future iPhones will include satellite communications, possibly for emergency purposes, that’s not the kind of technology T-Mobile is counting on here.
Earlier this year, SpaceX lost a bid for nationwide internet subsidies because of the cost of its equipment. But if it can piggyback on T-Mobile’s existing equipment, which people in rural areas may already own, that could help her case with the Federal Communications Commission. Thursday’s presentation certainly touched on the idea of national coverage, with videos of people in remote parks, the mountains or herding animals.