SpaceX, T-Mobile Team Up to Turn Your Smartphone into a Sat Phone

As our riders were able to explore their favorite spots and camp as usual, they are far from the conveniences of modern life, including cellular connectivity. Some carry expensive cell phones, many others small personal satellite communicators like the Garmin inReach.

What if we predicted that SpaceX in partnership with T-Mobile will turn the mobile phone into a device? It is true. During an event at Starbase in Texas on August 25, Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Michael Sievert revealed the news about the new technology that will be carried into space next year on SpaceX’s second-generation Version 2 (V2) Starlink satellites.

The new cult aims to work with the phone already in your pocket. Don’t buy extra equipment. | Photo: Bill Lieras

Musk describes the largest antennas measuring 270 square feet, which will be attached to the most advanced satellites in the world. “It’s a hard problem,” Musk said of serving our satellite phones, “and that’s why it’s been solved before.” He goes on to describe how these antennas can pick up a very quiet signal from our phones from 500 miles away while traveling at 17,000 miles per hour, all while compensating for the doppler effect caused by such rapid movement. “So this is a very difficult challenge, but we have it in the lab and we are confident it will work in the field.”

Musk says the satellite dish is capable of delivering 2-4 megabits of data transfer speed across a cellular zone, which would potentially allow for text messaging and even voice calls anywhere you can see clear skies. He said pictures can be sent, and if there aren’t too many other users in the cell zone, potentially “send a little video.” However, only simple SMS-style messaging will be available at the beginning of the program.

Yes, no, it’s nothing like high-end satellite receivers. an integral part of the game plan.

One of the coolest elements of this satellite-based service is how it has the potential to expand T-Mobile’s existing commitment to sharing with carriers around the world. It is now an industry leader in providing reciprocal service, partnering with 220 countries and all major US airlines to provide seamless service to its customers when they travel.

SpaceX and T-Mobile team up to bring satellite coverage to your smartphone
The collaboration plans to achieve coverage in more areas in the US – even in some of the most remote areas previously impossible from traditional cell signals. | Photo: Rob Dabney

And while it’s a great job for Americans to travel, it’s even more important in the big picture, potentially connecting millions who live remotely in developing countries, part of a long game for Musk, who is too liberal about having a global impact. connected to the faithful.

What if you’re not a mobile customer and don’t want to change jobs? The agreement between T-Mobile and SpaceX sounds exclusive, and Starlink has few private market competitors at the moment, although France’s Eutel and OneWeb have become more powerful this summer, and Amazon is getting a competing satellite program called Project Kuiper, although it will be 2026 before it operates.

SpaceX and T-Mobile team up to bring satellite coverage to your smartphone
To provide this service, the companies will create a new network, broadcast by Starlink satellites using T-Mobile’s national mid-band spectrum. This true satellite-to-cell service will provide coverage almost everywhere the customer can see the sky. | Photo: Starlink

As for messaging apps that will be usable, Sievert said it still has to be resolved how potential partner apps like iPhone iMessage and Android RCS will integrate with the new system, but a solution was clearly in the works.

As I said before, that price is the most important thing, but it’s a life coaching if not a coaching. As far as riders go, we’ve already gone through the thought process of what we’ll do to survive the worst off-road scenario, which is why so many riders now carry personal satellite communications and earn extra money to have global search. and free services at a tap.

The cool thing about more people on earth having access to satellite service on their smartphones, however, is that in the event of a natural disaster or other event that could knock out the earth’s infrastructure, satellite connectivity can be used by first responders to reach people in need. and not for dear ones when they are saved.

SpaceX and T-Mobile team up to bring satellite coverage to your smartphone
“More than just founding an alliance,” this means two new industry innovators challenging old ways of doing things to create something completely new, said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile.

SpaceX plans to launch V2 satellites in 2023, and T-Mobile’s Sievert says it will beta test in select countries next year, though that timing depends on SpaceX being able to get much heavier V2 satellites into orbit. Those are clearly too big to be carried by the Falcon 9 rocket, so Musk says SpaceX will use the heavier Starship rocket program to launch the new constellation. If that seems too long, Musk says the contingency plan is to launch “V2 mini” satellites via the Falcon 9 as a rolling program.

According to Musk, customers don’t need to buy a new phone to enjoy satellite-based coverage, which is pretty neat, but even better, Sievert says T-Mobile’s popular plans include additional coverage for free, on the go. according to the “Un-Carrier” campaign, which began with the provider dropping contracts, telephone subsidies, coverage fees for data and terminating premiums.

The plan will give T-Mobile customers text coverage almost anywhere in the continental US, Alaska and Hawaii, which today covers nearly 500,000 square miles of remote territory that is currently not reached by traditional cell signals. Puerto Rico and its territorial waters will also be covered.

SpaceX and T-Mobile team up to bring satellite coverage to your smartphone
“The great thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones for cell phones anywhere in the world,” said Elon Musk. | Photo: Kenneth Morse

This new program is a huge game-changer for people all over the world, even though it’s somehow missed by the mainstream news. No doubt there will be a time when we look back today and wonder about the “dead zones” we have navigated. How can we go out into the desert, climb the mountains, or go out into the ocean, and not be able to call home or get help if something goes wrong?

It’s interesting how the very thing that often drives us into our adventures trying to escape, the modern connection is required, the very thing that will help us enjoy those escapes. And even more so with these technologies spreading our invisible net, and making it easier than ever to keep our anxious loved ones informed.


Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire bike range for major print magazines and specializing in performance-related stories. For a time he wrote and sought photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 trips, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer Awards along the way. His most intense ride yet was at the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as a Team AusAmerica journalist.

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