SpaceX files with FCC to deploy Starlink satellites to enable cell connectivity

SpaceX has officially filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission to begin deploying Starlink satellites with their direct-to-cellular system.

The filing comes a few months after SpaceX and T-Mobile announced ‘Coverage Above & Beyond,’ a service that will enable cellular service in areas without current coverage.

According to the filing, first uncovered by CNBC’s Michael Sheetz, SpaceX wants to equip 2,016 of their second-generation satellites with the direct-to-cell system. Just last week SpaceX was approved to launch 7,500 of these Gen2 satellites, with the FCC deferring a decision on the remaining 22,500 Gen 2 satellites SpaceX wants to deploy.

With this direct-to-cell system enabled SpaceX says the cellular service will be able to provide voice, messaging, and basic web browsing at speeds up to 3.0 Mbps or 7.2 Mbps peak upload (Earth-to-space) and up to 4.4 Mbps or 18.3 Mbps on the downlink.

If approved the filing says the service would be available by mid-2024.

Along with the direct-to-cell system enabling cellular coverage, the filing also shows SpaceX plans to use it to power Swarm, their recently announced connectivity option for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

SpaceX said this combination will “provide even more ubiquitous connectivity options to Americans with a goal of ‘global affordable connectivity.'”

While T-Mobile is the only company to join SpaceX in this partnership, Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert invited other companies to join them in the new venture. We have yet to hear of any other companies taking up the call, but Musk has said that he has had “promising conversations” with Apple for iPhone Starlink connectivity.

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