T-Mobile says it’s getting rid of mobile dead zones thanks to a new partnership with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, at an event hosted by T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert and Elon Musk.
According to Musk, second-generation Starlink satellites launching next year will be able to broadcast service using part of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum. The company says it’ll let you text, send MMS messages, and even use “messaging apps” whenever you have a clear view of the sky, even if there’s no traditional service available. “If there aren’t too many people in the cell zone, you may potentially even have a little bit of video,” said Musk.
The service will launch in beta next year, and Sievert says he hopes it will someday include data. He says that when it launches, T-Mobile’s “vision” is for it to be included for free in the carrier’s “most popular plans,” though he did say that today’s event isn’t an official announcement.
T-Mobile says that subscribers’ current phones will be able to utilize the network — no special equipment required. While rumors have been circulating that future iPhones will include satellite communications, potentially for emergency response purposes, that’s not the kind of tech T-Mobile is banking on here.
Earlier this year, SpaceX lost a bid for rural internet subsidies because of the cost of its equipment. But if it can piggy-back off T-Mobile’s existing equipment, which people in rural areas may already own, that could help its case with the Federal Communications Commission. The presentation on Thursday certainly hit on the idea of rural coverage, with videos of people in remote parks, the mountains, or herding animals.