Will Starlink replace mobile operators?

In the United States, SpaceX has just obtained authorization to increase its Starlink constellation to more than 10,000 satellites in orbit. A few months ago, we learned that Starlink had partnered with T-Mobile to provide satellite connectivity to subscribers in white areas across the United States.

However, on December 6, in addition to this authorization, SpaceX requested the FCC authorization to equip part of the next 2nd generation satellites launched into orbit with a “direct-to-cell” antenna that allows direct communication with smartphones on the ground.

Starlink to Announce a Partnership with T-Mobile to Eradicate White Zones in the United States

Depending on demand, the new antenna should allow the service to provide “voice, messaging and basic internet browsing with theoretical download speeds of 4.4 Mbps or 18.3 Mbps”🇧🇷 The system must ”implement LTE Layer 2 technology″which is called 4G in France.

That is, air out of nowhere – and even if at first connectivity is delivered to users via T-Mobile – SpaceX enters into an activity that until now was exclusive to mobile operators that have an antenna network🇧🇷 Enough to imagine quite easily how Starlink could eventually transform into a kind of global mobile operator.

What already shakes players like Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free Mobile? Not exactly in the short term. First, because the technical details about how this connectivity works and which smartphones will actually be compatible are still very evanescent.

Furthermore, the theoretical flows mentioned are what they are: theoretical estimates. In practice, especially at the beginning of the service, it is likely that the speeds observed by users will be lower. Finally, there is the question of the tariff charged by Starlink. Indeed, SpaceX’s current internet access offers are quite expensive, which is why they lack competitiveness vis-à-vis historic players, in urbanized areas that are already well covered.

Will SpaceX soon be a global mobile operator?

Furthermore, from what we understand, what T-Mobile and Starlink want to announce in August 2023 is, above all, a certain continuity of service in white areas – and not permanent satellite connectivity in the city as in poorly covered areas. . 🇧🇷 However, in the long term, one can imagine that the situation will turn out to be an advantage for SpaceX to the detriment of conventional operators.

Especially when the Starlink constellation is dense enough to allow for more speeds and reliability. One thinks in particular of an Apple patent aimed at extending the iPhone’s satellite connectivity. More than a simple emergency contact system, the patent describes a more complete connectivity than the iPhone 14. The devices could thus exchange data and voice via satellite without limits.

However, even though other players have said they intend to compete with Starlink with their own satellite constellation, SpaceX has already achieved dominance in satellite internet access. The Starlink constellation, which is rapidly moving towards a first level of 7,500 units, already has 3,271 satellites.

In total, mankind has launched about 12,293 objects into orbit since the beginning of the space age, which means that in a few years SpaceX became the owner of 27% of all satellite objects. A proportion that should only continue to grow faster than its competitors, as Starlink is supported by the SpaceX launcher, allowing for a particularly sustained rate of launches.

As of September 2022, Starlink has just over 700,000 subscribers worldwide, with a recruit rate of around 100,000 subscribers per month. If SpaceX also delivered smartphone connectivity, we imagine the service could greatly expand the number of its customers. Either way, it’s a safe bet that Starlink is at the forefront of concerns for Apple engineers working on satellite connectivity for iPhones.

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