SpaceX has gained partial clearance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to proceed with deploying its Direct-to-Cell Starlink system. The FCC’s decision, issued on Friday, grants SpaceX permission to conduct short tests on a modified version of the Gen2 Starlink satellites, designed to provide connectivity to T-Mobile smartphones.
However, the clearance comes with certain restrictions, allowing SpaceX to operate within specific frequency bands for limited on-orbit checks of the satellite antennas, each lasting 10 days or less, according to a report from PC Mag.
The FCC emphasized the need for SpaceX to prevent radio interference during communication tests, requiring coordination with potentially affected operators. If any harmful interference is detected, SpaceX is mandated to cease operations immediately and inform the FCC promptly. While this partial approval is a positive step, full FCC clearance is still pending, as the Commission deferred parts of SpaceX’s application due to the company’s failure to complete a “Schedule S” form detailing technical and operational specifications. SpaceX requested a waiver, citing limitations in the existing Schedule C.
Despite the hurdles, SpaceX has been persistent in seeking FCC approval for the cellular Starlink system, filing a separate application to test the technology on 840 satellites starting as early as next week.
The FCC has received concerns from rival companies about potential radio interference from the cellular Starlink system. This may explain the cautious approach in granting partial approval, as the Commission weighs the impact and potential risks associated with SpaceX’s ambitious plans.
You can read the full approval below.