After announcing a partnership for satellite-to-mobile phone service in the summer of 2022, there had been no further updates from SpaceX and T-Mobile. However, SpaceX has recently launched a new webpage indicating that texting via regular smartphones will be possible in 2024, with voice, data, and IoT services to follow in 2025.
Although the SpaceX webpage lacks specific details, it states that the Starlink Direct to Cell service will function with existing LTE phones as long as there is a clear view of the sky. Most importantly, subscriber phones will not require any hardware changes or the use of special apps.
SpaceX outlined its plans, stating:
Direct to Cell satellites will initially be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and then Starship. On orbit, the satellites will immediately connect over laser backhaul to the Starlink constellation to provide global connectivity.
It appears that since their initial partnership announcement with T-Mobile, SpaceX has also forged alliances with other carriers, including Rogers, KDDI, Optus, One NZ, and Salt.
However, in the United States, SpaceX still needs to secure spectrum permissions and other technical authorizations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In December 2022, SpaceX submitted a request to the FCC to include a direct-to-cellular payload in 2,016 of its second-generation Starlink satellites. In response to this outstanding issue, SpaceX and other stakeholders held discussions with the FCC’s Space Bureau staff on September 20 of this year.