In addition to being used with dedicated Starlink devices, the satellite internet provided by SpaceX will also find its way directly to smartphones to provide text messaging, voice and data. The first satellites have now been launched directly into space aboard the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 had a total of 21 Starlink satellites on board. SpaceX explains that six of them are equipped with “Direct to Cell” capability. Direct to Cell is an internet offering planned by Starlink which, unlike classic Starlink, does not require any special hardware to use satellite internet.
Satellites equipped with eNodeB modem
The Direct to Cell satellites have an E-UTRA extended eNodeB modem on board, which enables direct LTE communication with a smartphone. As an alternative to a direct connection, the satellite can first be connected to the Starlink terrestrial network, which is connected to a partner operator's network in order to provide text, voice and data messaging. With the classic Starlink offering, a relatively large Starlink antenna and your own Starlink router are required.
Data will follow next year
Starlink announced its direct-to-cell technology in late summer 2022. At that time, T-Mobile US was selected as the first partner. The list of supporters has now expanded to include Rogers, KDDI, Optus, One New Zealand, Salt and Entel Chile. Starlink is expected to roll out for text messaging this year, voice and data next year, and IoT device connectivity as well from 2025.
There is no competition for terrestrial networks yet
how Elon Musk addedAccording to Musk, the first Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell technology will deliver 7 Mbit/s per beam, with each beam being very large. Therefore, although it is a good solution to have reception at all in a place where there is usually no cell phone reception, the solution is not yet competitive compared to terrestrial networks.
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