TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX could provide “full and continuous” direct services over much of the globe with less than a third of the 7,500 Starlink Gen 2 satellites approved last week, the company said in a request for additional broadband constellation capability.
SpaceX filed an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 6 to include a “direct-to-cellular” hosted payload on approximately 2,000 Gen 2 satellites.
The payload would allow these satellites to use spectrum from cellular partners to deliver “basic voice, messaging and web browsing” to standard phones beyond the reach of terrestrial networks, wrote Kyle Wesson, senior regulatory engineer at SpaceX, in a cover letter to the FCC.
“Upon full deployment, this hosted payload will allow SpaceX to provide complete and continuous coverage of Earth between +58° and -58° latitude by mid-2024,” Wesson said.
SpaceX has so far only announced a partnership to use T-Mobile’s spectrum to provide direct-to-smartphone service in the United States.
In its FCC application, SpaceX said its direct-to-smartphone service would be able to connect to phones that communicate in the same 1.9 GHz band that T-Mobile uses.
“The total number of satellites simultaneously serving the United States and its territories will typically be between 80 and 100,” Wesson said.
He described “theoretical peak speeds” of up to 18.3 megabits per second (Mbps) downlink and 7.2 Mbps upload per beam when using a higher bandwidth channel.
“Direct-to-cell services will be available to residential, commercial, institutional and government users throughout the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and some of the most remote corridors in Alaska,” a- he told the FCC.
SpaceX’s app comes just a week after the FCC granted it conditional launch approval only a quarter of its 30,000 Gen 2 satellites on offerwhile postponing action on the rest.
The new service could also connect remote Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Wesson said, building on “SpaceX’s expansion in this field of mobile services with its acquisition of [small satellite operator] Swarm Technologies” last year.
Swarm was co-founded by Sara Spangelo, who is now SpaceX’s senior director of satellite engineering and helps lead its direct smartphone expansion.
In November, Spangelo said SpaceX plans to enter into three to five more direct smartphone partnerships by early 2023 after being approached. by more than 50 telecom operators worldwide.
She said SpaceX could launch initial services, starting with text messaging, as early as 2024.
Launch of Apple-initiated direct-to-smartphone services via Globalstar satellites in November are currently limited to emergency SOS messaging for iPhone 14 handsets in the US and Canada.
Other established companies and startups also have their own rollout plans a variety of satellite services directly on standard smartphones.
And while SpaceX seeks more terrestrial spectrum partners, the company has asked the FCC for more spectrum that could be used for Starlink mobile satellite service – including in the 1.6 GHz and 2.4 GHz spectrum bands. used by Globalstar and the 2 GHz band. assigned to satellite broadcaster Dish Network.
SpaceX has launched more than 3,500 satellites for the current generation of Starlink to date, while continuing to expand its coverage to reach a critical mass of subscribers around the world.
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