Starlink Launches First Satellites That Provide Network to Cell Phones

by Jerry

Starlink takes the first steps towards providing a mobile network for mobile phones via satellite. On Tuesday night (2), the subsidiary SpaceX carried out a launch of 21 satellites, six of which are compatible with the 4G network — known as LTE in other countries. This equipment is part of Direct to Cell, Starlink’s future satellite communication service.

The first reports of Starlink’s mobile network emerged in 2022, when the company, a subsidiary of SpaceX, announced a partnership with T-Mobile, a United States phone carrier. The name of the service, Direct to Cell, was released in October 2023. The network is expected to be available later this year, allowing text messaging.

Direct to Cell has the same goal as Starlink’s internet
The purpose of the Direct to Cell service is the same as that of the home internet provided by Starlink: to expand the coverage space, eliminating dead zones — but with the 4G network. The advantage over the internet service is that customers will not have to make any changes to their smartphones, just be a customer of a Starlink partner operator.

In addition to T-Mobile, the Direct to Cell page lists new partners in different countries. In all, the service is expected to debut on seven carriers (including the American telecom). The new partners are:

Optus (Australia)
Rogers (Canada)
One NZ (New Zealand)
KDDI (Japan)
Salt (Switzerland)
Entel (Chile)
So far, there are no plans for Starlink to launch its own mobile network service. The company should continue to partner with telephone operators to provide 4G satellite internet.

On the official Direct to Cell website, the launch plan for Starlink’s features is presented. In addition to text messaging for 2024, voice messaging, data transfer, and compatibility with Internet of Things (IoT) devices are expected to arrive in 2025.

On X/Twitter, Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, highlighted that Direct to Cell will expand the coverage of the LTE network. The billionaire also acknowledged that the service is not competitive against terrestrial networks. This type of technology allows the 4G connection to reach higher speeds than satellite transmissions.

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