SpaceX achieved a milestone with the successful launch of its first batch of Starlink satellites designed for direct-to-smartphone connectivity.
Launched on January 2, these satellites, featuring a temporary experimental license, mark the beginning of testing this innovative capability in the United States. Six out of the 21 satellites carry a payload aimed at providing connectivity for most 4G LTE devices. SpaceX plans to introduce text messaging services this year in collaboration with cellular operators, with voice and data connectivity expected by 2025, pending regulatory approval for commercial services.
In August 2022, SpaceX revealed plans to collaborate with U.S. wireless carriers, including T-Mobile, to leverage its Starlink satellites for extending network access in specific regions of the United States.
In November, SpaceX communicated to the Federal Communications Commission its ambitious plan to deploy 840 direct-to-cell satellites over the next six months, indicating the company’s commitment to advancing this innovative technology.
Collaborating with partners such as T-Mobile in the U.S. and operators in Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, and Switzerland, SpaceX is at the forefront of advancing direct-to-cell technology.
During the launch, SpaceX highlighted the brightness of the first six ‘direct-to-cell’ satellites, expressing a commitment to work with astronomers to address any impact on observations. This launch, originally planned for mid-December, became SpaceX’s inaugural mission of 2024, showcasing the 296th overall flight for the Falcon 9 booster, which successfully landed for future reuse.
Beyond enhancing direct-to-cell capabilities, the mission also included 15 Starlink V2 Mini satellites, contributing to the expansion of SpaceX’s low Earth orbit broadband constellation. Concurrently, AST Space Mobileaand Lynk Global are making strides in securing funding for their dedicated direct-to-device constellations.