SpaceX has launched a new webpage to promote its upcoming “Starlink Direct to Cell” service, which is set to provide cellular connectivity to existing LTE phones through satellite technology.
The service is scheduled to roll out in stages, with texting services expected to become available in 2024, followed by voice and data capabilities in 2025, along with support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. According to SpaceX’s website:
“Direct to Cell works with existing LTE phones wherever you can see the sky. No changes to hardware, firmware, or special apps are required, providing seamless access to text, voice, and data.”
While the service may offer speeds estimated between two and four megabits per second, which is relatively slower compared to terrestrial networks, its primary advantage lies in its extensive coverage. The service aims to cover a broad range, with T-Mobile indicating availability in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico, territorial waters, and even areas beyond T-Mobile’s network signal.
This move toward satellite connectivity for smartphones aligns with a growing trend in the industry. For instance, Apple introduced an Emergency SOS feature in its iPhone 14 and newer models, enabling limited messaging and location sharing via satellite in emergency situations. Additionally, AST SpaceMobile, supported by AT&T, recently achieved a milestone by placing the first 5G satellite call from an unmodified smartphone.
SpaceX’s Starlink Direct to Cell service is set to offer expanded connectivity options, particularly in remote or underserved areas, where traditional cellular networks may be lacking or limited. As it progresses, it has the potential to become a valuable resource for users seeking reliable communication options beyond the reach of conventional networks.