First SpaceX satellites launch for breakthrough direct-to-cell service with T-Mobile

Via T-Mobile

Jan 4, 2024

  • Major step forward in companies’ vision to create truly universal coverage by pairing SpaceX’s Starlink satellite technology with T-Mobile's industry-leading network Five international partners have joined T-Mobile and SpaceX on their quest for global connectivity.

Hawthorne, California – 3…2…1…Lift off! Today, T-Mobile announced that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the first set of Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities, following the livestreamed webcast last night. This is a significant milestone following last year’s joint announcement of the Coverage Above and Beyond initiative, which aims to bring connectivity nearly everywhere in the U.S. for Un-carrier customers — even in many of the most remote locations previously unreachable by traditional cell signals from any provider … aka dead zones. Now that the satellites are in low-Earth orbit, field testing can soon begin on the new service that will leverage SpaceX’s constellation of satellites with Direct to Cell technology and T-Mobile’s industry-leading wireless network.

“Our mission is to be the best in the world at connecting customers to their world and today is another step forward in keeping our customers connected even in the most remote locations for added peace of mind when they need it most,” said Mike Katz, President of Marketing, Strategy and Products, T-Mobile. “Today’s launch is a pivotal moment for this groundbreaking alliance with SpaceX and our global partners around the world, as we work to make dead zones a thing of the past.” 

With well over half a million square miles of the U.S. and vast stretches of ocean unreachable by terrestrial network coverage, due to terrain limitations, land-use restrictions and more, this new service aims to give customers a crucial additional layer of connectivity when and where they need it most. With the new service, the goal is to eliminate worrying about mobile dead zones and lugging around expensive satellite phones — Un-carrier customers would be connected nearly everywhere they can see the sky, and in most cases, with the phone they already have.  

Today marks the first of many Starlink satellite launches to come that will include Direct to Cell capabilities. Initially, the service will begin with text messaging, with voice and data coverage to follow in the coming years.  

“The launch of these first Direct to Cell satellites is an exciting milestone for SpaceX to demonstrate our technology," said Dr. Sara Spangelo, Sr. Director of Satellite Engineering. "We look forward to rapidly scaling up Direct to Cell with our partner operators around the world and rolling out messaging service for T-Mobile customers!” 

T-Mobile and SpaceX’s shared vision is to provide truly universal coverage and last year, they issued an open invitation to wireless providers worldwide to expand globally with reciprocal roaming. As of today, five wireless providers are already onboard to launch Direct to Cell technology including KDDI (Japan), Optus (Australia), One NZ (New Zealand), Rogers (Canada) and others, with more to come. And the invitation still stands for any carrier with the shared goal of global connectivity to join. Additional details on the alliance and for those interested in joining can be found at direct.starlink.com.  

For more details at T-Mobile, head to t-mobile.com/coverage/network.  

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