March 24, 2023

On Thursday, Elon Musk took to the stage with T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to announce that SpaceX is working with carriers to completely eliminate cellular dead zones. The companies claim that the next generation of Starlink satellites, due to launch next year, will be able to communicate directly with cell phones, allowing you to text, make calls and stream video even if there are no cell towers nearby. What’s more, Musk promises that all of this can be achieved with the phones people use today, without consumers having to buy any additional equipment.

That’s a bold statement from the carriers — Verizon and AT&T don’t offer similar services. However, SpaceX and T-Mobile aren’t the only companies looking to use satellites to communicate directly with phones that use existing cellular spectrum. for many years A company called AST SpaceMobile promises to send broadband to cellphones from space, and a company called Lynk Global has demonstrated that its satellite “cell towers” can be used to send text messages from regular cell phones. It’s easy to imagine that these companies would be terrified of the two giants suddenly wanting to play a similar game — but it turns out that’s not the case at all. They actually seem happy.

Who competes with SpaceX and T-Mobile in satellite phone technology?

“We love the validation and attention this technology brings,” Lynk CEO Charles Miller said in an interview edge. “We got all sorts of calls from carriers today and they were like ‘Help us!'”

Earlier this year, Lynk deployed its first commercial satellite, sent into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9.
picture: Link

Lynk’s original goal was similar to SpaceX’s — it partnered with multiple carriers around the world to let their customers send texts using the satellite network currently under construction. Like T-Mobile’s presentation, Miller specifically emphasized the technology’s importance in emergencies and natural disasters, where events such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods or earthquakes could disrupt traditional cellular networks. “It’s resilience. It’s instant backup for everyone on the planet. Your phone, even if the tower goes down, can communicate,” he said. “It will save lives.”

Miller’s pitch is very similar to Sievert’s and Musk’s, but he doesn’t seem particularly concerned about competing (pun intended) with them in the same field. Part of his confidence comes from Lynk as an early leader in the market — it claims that in early 2020, it became the first company to send text messages from space to an unmodified cell phone. “We think there will be more big companies coming in. They still have many years to go. They are many years behind us,” he said. “We’re going to be ‘Awesome! Let the world know that this technology is done. When we start rolling it out at the end of the year, people will be like, ‘I want it.’ “They don’t want to wait years.”

AST Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Scott Wisniewski expressed a similar sentiment. “Our CEO actually tweeted, he said we’re glad they’re focusing on this really big market and this really big demand. It’s reassuring to hear people say the technology is working for them,” he said. He also predicted that the satellite phone communications market may not be a winner-take-all market. “In terms of the overall market, we think it will be multiple winners. . “

AST’s service may be more ambitious than what T-Mobile has announced. Sievert said he hopes T-Mobile will one day be able to transmit data via SpaceX’s satellites, and AST’s stated goal is to operate 4G and 5G networks. Believe that the idea of ​​broadband will be more appealing than just being able to text and make calls from remote locations. “We’re all very aware that phones can be out of service a lot, or coverage can be poor. That’s something T-Mobile is emphasizing. So our solution is really attractive in that regard,” Wisniewski said.

SpaceX and T-Mobile’s plans are largely limited to the U.S. and its territories — the wireless spectrum SpaceX uses for its services is owned and operated by other carriers and agencies internationally, so additional deals are required to make it available in the U.S. Work anywhere outside the US – AST and Lynk have global ambitions. AST has secured investment and signed a five-year exclusive agreement with Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile phone providers, as well as investment from Japanese mobile operator Rakuten. Lynk is testing its service in 10 countries and is able to offer it in dozens of countries, “as we call it,” Miller said.

As they say, even the timing of the T-Mobile and SpaceX announcement was perfect for AST and Lynk.The former is preparing to launch a test satellite (with Five more in 2023), which plans to launch commercial services with 14 network operators by the end of the year. If there’s an ideal time to get consumers really interested in what you’re doing, it’s when you’re about to take that big first step.

How Apple and iPhone 14 Rumors Fit into the Puzzle

However, Tim Farrar, an analyst at Telecom, Media and Finance Associates, a consulting and research firm focused on satellite and telecommunications, thinks T-Mobile’s timing may be because another huge competitor is about to enter the market — one that could have AST, SpaceX And Lynk doesn’t. “The question will be what happens to Apple next week,” he said, referring to rumors that the next iPhone might be able to communicate with the Globalstar satellite network for emergencies.

If that happens, iPhone users will likely get the feature soon, and the version includes international support from the start, he said. “I think if Apple does announce something next week, it’s probably going to be ready as soon as the phone goes on sale. Because if they partner with Globalstar, Globalstar already has 24 satellites operating in space that you can communicate with, And they have licenses from the FCC and many other international jurisdictions.”

The last part is especially important. According to Farrar, all Apple has to do is get a device authorization from the FCC through a “simple and clear” process, and it’s ready to go. For other companies, including SpaceX, looking to transmit from space using spectrum licensed by cellular operators, that won’t be easy. Historically, satellites have used satellite spectrum, while cell towers have used terrestrial spectrum. But Farrar said satellite-to-cellular technology mixes the two in ways that current rules don’t allow. “It’s a major regulatory change for the FCC. It’s something they’ve been thinking about for two years, but haven’t really come to a resolution.”

T-Mobile’s carrier rivals may even try to find a way to prevent SpaceX from using the carrier’s spectrum, which could complicate matters. “There’s going to be a lot of debate about using terrestrial spectrum on satellites,” Farrar said. “Have already disturbed concerns AST said when it sought to partner with AT&T to trial their system. None of the major wireless carriers wants their competitors to gain an edge. Obviously, people will protest any application to use T-Mobile spectrum on satellites. The FCC will have to make a decision, which may not be reached anytime soon. “

In fact, Miller didn’t really talk about the spectrum, saying Link had “an open question” about it. Wisniewski said one of AST’s plans to deal with spectrum is to work with operators to get regulatory approval. He also said that the nature of providing services in places where they are not currently available can make things a little easier. “We share spectrum with mobile network operators in an interference-free way where they don’t have cell towers.”

According to Wisniewski, while AST has regulatory approval for commercial operation in seven countries, the FCC has only authorized it test its satellite Provide services to the United States on an experimental basis.

As for SpaceX and T-Mobile, their plans go a long way to give the companies time to try and work things out with regulators — they don’t even want to start testing their services before the end of next year.

But if one company can make a breakthrough with a cell phone connected to a satellite network, it might help all others. For example, if Tim Cook takes the stage on September 7 and announces that you can send emergency satellite messages from the iPhone 14, a lot of people who don’t use iPhones will soon get really jealous. This could increase pressure on the FCC to license satellite-to-phone technology for carriers and their satellite communications partners. If T-Mobile owns it, you know AT&T and Verizon are making some calls. (Farrar believes that other phone makers without Apple or Samsung’s clout will have a hard time introducing similar features — and carriers will likely fight them, arguing that their phones should only use the carrier’s satellite capabilities.)

Verizon does actually have a satellite connection agreement, albeit in a different form. It’s partnering with Amazon’s Kuiper Project, which aims to create a SpaceX-like constellation of satellites. Instead of direct satellite-to-phone communications, though, Verizon’s plan is to provide satellite service to remote cell towers without having to lay fiber or cable for them. At Thursday’s event, Sievert did say that T-Mobile is willing to do something similar with SpaceX.

Neither Verizon nor Amazon responded edgeComment on whether they will revise their plans based on the announcements from T-Mobile and SpaceX.

As for AST and Lynk, both companies are particularly interested in competing in this area. “If your cell phone is already connected via satellite, you don’t need to build these long-range cell towers,” Miller said.

Elon Musk gets the satellite phone cat out of the bag

At this point, only one thing actually seems completely clear: T-Mobile and SpaceX have released a genie out of a bottle. They’re announcing loudly that soon your phone will be able to connect to satellites and you’ll be able to communicate to at least some degree even if you’re in areas that are traditionally completely isolated.

Things can start here in a number of ways – AST’s testing could show that, yes, you can really send relatively fast internet from space to your phone and raise the bar that consumers want, higher than T-Mobile and SpaceX sets the standard for it. Or regulators might suddenly figure out a way to get Lynk to step in before T-Mobile leaves the beta. And, of course, there’s the potential for everyone to get into a huge regulatory mess and let Apple in and do their thing with a completely different technology.

However, no matter what ends up happening, people now know that the phone in their pocket can now talk to satellites. Like Miller said, now that I’ve seen it and know the technology is coming soon, I want it — no matter which satellites my phone has to communicate with.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *