SpaceX’s Starlink Launches Direct-to-Cell Satellites

SpaceX has successfully deployed its inaugural batch of direct-to-cell Starlink satellites, aiming to offer “mobile connectivity anywhere on Earth.”

Elon Musk, the CEO of the company, confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that these new satellites aim to provide a “great solution for locations with no cellular connectivity.” However, he cautioned that due to their current support for less than 7 MB per beam, the connectivity offered is not yet “meaningfully competitive with existing terrestrial cellular networks.”

While these satellites mark a step toward Musk’s vision of delivering internet access to underserved regions globally, they are not presently positioned as a complete alternative for typical network usage.

According to Starlink’s website, the satellites equipped with direct-to-cell capabilities will enable universal access to texting, calling, and browsing across land, lakes, and coastal waters. This connectivity is slated to function with all existing LTE (4G mobile connection) phones “wherever you can see the sky,” without requiring any hardware or firmware updates.

Describing its satellite network as a “cellphone tower in space,” Starlink assures users of network integration akin to a standard partner.

Initially launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, these direct-to-cell satellites will soon transition to utilizing Starship. They are expected to swiftly “connect over laser backhaul” to the Starlink constellation, ensuring global connectivity, even in the most remote corners of the world.

Since 2019, Starlink has expanded its satellite network to approximately 5,000 satellites, solidifying its position as the world’s largest satellite operator. Musk revealed last November, as reported by Reuters, that the company had achieved cash-flow breakeven, following his 2021 announcement outlining plans to take the business public once cash flow became predictable.

The Washington-based company has outlined a timeline for the functionality rollout after launching its new satellites. Texting capabilities are anticipated to be operational this year, while voice, data, and roaming functionalities are slated for 2025.

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