T-Mobile US Inc. may offer space-connected mobile devices to customers this year as its partnership with SpaceX bears fruit, the carrier’s leader said Thursday.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX in early January launched the initial batch of satellites capable of offering mobile phone service.
Operating like a cell tower in space, the Starlink satellites will work with users’ existing phones, rather than using specialized equipment.
The new services aim to offer connections using normal consumer mobile phones, rather than expensive wireless equipment that has been available for decades.
Carriers say the satellite-linked phones will likely be used in remote areas where cell reception is poor or nil, and say the services can be used to summon help if needed.
T-Mobile is the first of several terrestrial telecommunications operators to enter into agreements with SpaceX to use its Direct-to-Cell service in areas with no tower coverage.
Capabilities will begin with texts and progress to picture-messaging and talk, T-Mobile chief executive officer Mike Sievert told investors on an earnings call.
“If things go well, we should have these capabilities in customer hands this year,” Sievert said.
Companies are vying to tap the market for satellite-enabled calls offering connections to normal consumer mobile phones. AT&T Inc. has partnered with satellite operator AST SpaceMobile Inc.