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SpaceX gets US approval to test direct-to-cell calls via Starlink

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Washington: Elon Musk’s SpaceX obtained US approval to run tests on signals between orbiting Starlink satellites and normal mobile phones on the ground using airwaves in partnership with T-Mobile US Inc.

The Federal Communications Commission in a notice Thursday said it had granted a SpaceX request for a six-month authorization for trials that would involve about 2,000 test devices and 840 satellites.

Companies are in a race to tap the market for satellite-enabled calls offering connections in remote areas beyond the reach of cell towers. The services aim to use normal consumer mobile phones, rather than specialized equipment. SpaceX’s satellites circle the globe in what’s known as low-Earth orbit, while existing satellite phones usually connect to geosynchronous satellites in fixed positions at higher altitudes.

AT&T Inc. plans calls via satellite with satellite operator AST SpaceMobile Inc. Meanwhile, Apple Inc. iPhones let users send texts via satellite to first responders and report emergencies in areas without cellular coverage.

SpaceX earlier told the FCC the experimental license granted Thursday will let the company “begin testing its transformative direct-to-cell technology, which will bring connectivity in areas where terrestrial mobile networks are absent or have been impacted by natural disasters.”

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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