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21 Sep 2022

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T-Mobile Partners with SpaceX for Satellite-to-Cellular Service

T-Mobile and SpaceX announced that they are working together to develop a satellite-to-cellular network communication technology, which they refer to as space-to-ground connectivity, or S2GC. This partnership will help T-Mobile provide faster Internet access and better mobile service for customers in hard-to-reach places, such as rural areas and the outer parts of cities.

SpaceX will provide a "satellite-to-cellular" service based on T-Mobile's mid-band 5G spectrum and its second-generation Starlink satellites.

T-Mobile says most of their existing smartphones will work with the new service. As a result, customers should expect "near-complete coverage" across the United States, including the territorial waters.

"Our vision is: if you have a clear view of the sky, you're connected," Said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile US, at a live event at SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas.

Second-generation satellites from Starlink will pack a powerful phased array antenna, enabling them to connect to devices as small as mobile phones without needing a large ground station.

"These are the most advanced antennas in the world," explained SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. They must pick up a very quiet signal from your cell phone. Just imagine that signal has to travel 500 miles and then be caught by a satellite traveling at 17,000 mph. The satellite has to compensate for the Doppler effect of moving so fast."

According to Musk, there are still several technical challenges that SpaceX teams are currently grappling with, but remarkable progress is being made.

Musk added. "We have it working in the lab, and we're confident this will work in the field, "So it's quite a lot of extra hardware on the satellites, and it's also a lot of software. It's a hard problem."

"More than just a groundbreaking alliance, this represents two industry-shaking innovators challenging the old ways of doing things to create something entirely new that will further connect customers and scare competitors," said Sievert.

Overcoming the technological challenges will not be enough; SpaceX and T-Mobile will also need to secure the regulatory approvals required to launch the new service.

Initially, the company is set to launch the service in late 2023 and will only work with MMS, SMS, and specific messaging apps. We will have full voice and data coverage in the future.

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