SpaceX has successfully launched the first Starlink satellites that will enable direct-to-cell communications. The launch took place on Tuesday evening from the Vandenburg US Space Force base in California, more than three weeks after it was originally scheduled to take place.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched a total of 21 Starlink satellites into low-earth orbit, six of which have direct-to-cell capability, allowing them to directly communicate with regular cellular phones. The service will initially support only texting, but will expand to include voice and data by 2025.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 3, 2024
The service aims to provide connectivity in areas where conventional land-based mobile towers face challenges. Starlink has already inked agreements with cellular network providers around the world, first with T-Mobile in the US, as well Rogers in Canada, Optus in Australia, One NZ in New Zealand, KDDI in Japan, Salt in Switzerland, and Entel in Chile.
What sets Starlink’s service apart is their compatibility with existing LTE phones, requiring no modifications to hardware, firmware, or special applications.
The service will first be tested with T-Mobile in the US, after receiving permission for a six-month trial from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in mid-December.