SpaceX has announced that it will start testing its cellular satellite service in 2023.
As reported by Engadget, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink enterprise sales, announced the move during a panel discussion at the Satellite Conference and Exhibition. During the discussion, Hofeller said that the company plans to “start getting into testing” with its satellite to cellular service “this year.”
The timeline isn’t surprising. At an event in August 2022, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert announced “Coverage Above and Beyond,” a new partnership that will bring satellite connectivity to compatible T-Mobile phones using SpaceX. The feature, which aims to end dead zones, would enable compatible smartphones with the carrier to connect to a Starlink satellite outside of Wi-Fi or cellular coverage.
Unlike Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature, which only allows iPhone 14 users to connect to a satellite to report an emergency situation, SpaceX and T-Mobile said that its service will enable SMS, MMS, and messaging through some popular apps like iMessage. The companies say this is just the start, with plans to eventually offer voice and data, no matter where you are.
Elon Musk did note at the time that you won’t be able to get into cloud gaming with the service, however, saying that “connectivity will be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, so will work great for texting & voice calls, but not high bandwidth.” That seems like a reasonable limitation.
Hofeller didn’t specifically say the company was starting testing with T-Mobile, but it’s not a far reach to guess that. If you want to watch the entire SpaceX and T-Mobile event, you can still check it out on YouTube below:
The announcement comes as SpaceX is already testing a global roaming service for Starlink customers. The company also recently started rolling out Starlink Aviation, its satellite internet service for airplanes. Both of those services are already in the hands of customers, further growing Starlink’s portfolio.