There are a few companies that want to keep you connected when you’re in remote areas.
Image: SpaceX

Musk got on stage with T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert to announce that they are working together to eliminate cellular dead zones. Next- generation Starlink satellites will be able to communicate directly with phones, allowing you to text, make calls, and possibly stream video even when there are no cell towers nearby. All this is possible with phones that people are using today, without consumers having to buy any extra equipment.

It is a bold statement from the carrier, and it is not offered by AT&T or the other carriers. There are other companies that are interested in using satellites to communicate with cell phones. For years a company called AST SpaceMobile has promised that it will beam broadband to phones from space, and a company calledLynk Global has already demonstrated that it can send text messages from regular phones. It would be easy for these companies to be afraid that two giants were going to do the same thing. They seem really happy.

Who’s competing with SpaceX and T-Mobile in satellite-to-phone tech?

Charles Miller, the CEO of the company, said in an interview that they love the attention that the technology is getting. Today, we have been getting a lot of calls from carriers who want to help us.

Earlier this year, Lynk deployed its first commercial satellite, which was ferried into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9.
Image: Lynk

It is partnering with a number of carriers around the world to allow their customers to send texts using a satellite network. Miller emphasized the tech's importance during emergencies and natural disasters, where things like hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, or earthquakes can take down traditional cell networks. I think it is resilience. It works for everyone on Earth. Even though the towers are down, your phones are capable of communicating. This will make a difference.

Miller's pitch is very similar to Sievert's and Musk's, but he doesn't seem concerned about competing in the same space His confidence comes from the fact that he was an early leader in the market and that he sent a text message from space. There will be more companies jumping in. They have a long time to go. He said that they were years behind. We are going to be great. The world should know that this technology is finished. People are going to want it when we start rolling it out. They won't want to wait a long time for it.

Lynk, SpaceX, and AST all promise varying levels of connectivity

Scott Wisniewski is the executive vice president and chief strategy officer at the company. The CEO of our company said that they are happy that they are focusing on this big market and need. It was comforting to hear people say that technology works for them. The market for satellite-to-phone communication probably wouldn't be winner-take-all according to him. There will be multiple winners in the market.

Elon and Mike helped the world focus attention on the huge market opportunity for SpaceMobile, the only planned space-based cellular broadband network. BlueWalker 3, which has a 693 sq ft array, is scheduled for launch within weeks! #5G

— Abel Avellan (@AbelAvellan) August 26, 2022

T-Mobile said their service was more ambitious. Sievert is hoping that T-Mobile will one day be able to deliver data via the satellites owned by SpaceX. The idea of broadband will be more appealing than just being able to text and make calls from remote locations. We all know that phones can go out of service a lot. That was one of the points highlighted by T-Mobile. Wisniewski said that the solution is attractive.

In the US and its territories, the wireless spectrum SpaceX is using for its service is owned and operated by other carriers and agencies, so additional deals are needed for it to work anywhere outside the US. One of the world's largest cell providers and a mobile carrier in Japan have invested in the company. According to Miller, the service is being tested in 10 countries and can be provided in dozens more.

The timing of T-Mobile and SpaceX's announcement is perfect forAST andLynk. The latter is planning on launching a commercial service with 14 network operators by the end of the year, while the former is preparing to launch a test satellite in a few weeks. When you're about to take a big first step, it's a good time for consumers to become very interested in what you're working on.

How Apple and iPhone 14 rumors fit into this puzzle

Tim Farrar, an analyst at Telecom, Media and Finance, believes that another huge competitor is about to enter the market, one that could have advantages that other companies don't. The issue is going to be what happens with Apple next week, because of rumors that the next iPhone may be able to communicate with the Globalstar satellite network.

He says that the feature might be available very soon in a version that includes international support. If Apple announces something next week, it will be something that is ready to go as soon as the phone is available. Globalstar already has 24 satellites in space that you can communicate with, and they have the licenses with the FCC and many other international jurisdiction.


Apple’s iPhone 14 event: what to expect

The last part is crucial. The only thing Apple has to do is get equipment authorization from the FCC through a simple and well defined process. It isn't easy for the other companies who want to transmit from space using spectrum that's licensed by cell carriers Satellites and cell towers used different frequencies. Satellite-to-cell technology mixes the two in a way that the rules don't allow for. The FCC is going to make a big change. They've been considering it for two years and haven't found a solution.

T-Mobile's competitors may try to find a way to prevent SpaceX from using the carrier's spectrum. There will be a lot of fighting over the use of satellite spectrum. When AT&T was looking to work with AST, there were concerns about interference. The major carriers don't want their competitors to have an advantage. People will protest any application for using T-Mobile spectrum on satellites. The FCC will have to make a decision that may take a long time.

“Regulatory’s a process, all of telecom is regulated.” - Scott Wisniewski

Miller wouldn't talk about spectrum, he said that there was an open issue with it. According to Wisniewski, one of the plans for dealing with spectrum issues is to work with carriers. He said that the nature of the service could make things simpler. The spectrum is shared with mobile network operators in places where they don't have towers.

According to Wisniewski, the FCC has given the go-ahead for the test of the satellite to provide service to the US.

The companies don't expect to start testing their service until the end of next year, as their plans are quite a ways out.

It could help all the other companies if one company can get a phone that connects to satellite networks. If Tim Cook announces that you can send emergency satellite messages from the iPhone 14, a lot of people who don't use the device will be jealous. Pressure could be added on the FCC to approve the satellite-to-phone tech for carriers. If T-Mobile has it, AT&T andVerizon will make calls. It would be difficult for other manufacturers to introduce a similar feature because carriers would argue that their phones should use the carrier's satellite capabilities.

There is an agreement for satellite connection that is already in place with Verizon. The goal of the project is to create a satellite constellation like that of SpaceX. Satellite service will be used instead of fiber or cable in order to feed cell towers. During the event on Thursday, Sievert said that T-Mobile was open to the idea of doing something like that with SpaceX.

When asked if they would be modifying their plans based on the T-Mobile and SpaceX announcements, neither of them responded.

Neither company wants to compete on that front. If your phone is already connected to the satellite, you don't need to build a cell tower.

Elon Musk let the satellite-to-phone cat out of the bag

There is only one thing that seems clear at this point, and that is that T-Mobile and SpaceX have given a genie out of the bottle. Soon your phone will be able to connect to satellites, which will allow you to have some level of communication even when you are in areas that have traditionally been completely isolated.

It is possible that you can beam relatively fast internet to phones from space and raise the bar for what consumers want higher than where T-Mobile and SpaceX have set it. Maybe regulators could figure it out before T-Mobile leaves the trial stage. Everyone is at risk of getting caught in a regulatory mess if Apple is allowed to do its own thing with a completely different type of technology.

People are aware that it is possible for their phones to talk to a satellite. Miller said that he wants it, no matter which satellites his phone has to talk to.