T-Mobile will use SpaceX satellites to expand coverage areas

Photo (c) Tak Yeung - Getty Images

The carrier will start with text services in early 2023

T-Mobile will use SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to expand cellular coverage, connecting consumers’ phones with satellites orbiting the earth.

The wireless provider announced an agreement with the Elon Musk-owned company – the first of the major cellular providers to offer service from space. 

You may have seen ads from most of the cellular providers, coloring in the areas where they have coverage. While there is a lot of color on most of those coverage maps, there are some white spaces – gaps in the coverage. Melissa, a T-Mobile customer in Onstead, Mich., says she lives in one of those gaps.

“We have 5 phones connected to the T-Mobile network,” Melissa wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “When we are home not one phone gets network service. We can only use our calender, alarm clock, and camera on our phones.”

T-Mobile says there are plenty of cellphone users who have Melissa’s problem. Despite powerful LTE and 5G wireless networks, the company says well over half a million square miles of the U.S., in addition to vast stretches of ocean, are untouched by cell signals from any provider.

That should be changing, albeit slowly, at T-Mobile. The company said it will offer plans that will include satellite coverage, along with the current plans that only use cell towers. 

Most users won’t need a new phone

The satellite networks will use T-Mobile's mid-band spectrum. Because of that, most consumers who sign up for the expanded coverage won’t have to buy a new phone. The new satellite plan will start with texting services in a beta test early next year.

“We’ve always thought differently about what it means to keep customers connected, and that’s why we’re working with the best to deliver coverage above and beyond anything customers have ever seen before,” said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile. “More than just a groundbreaking alliance, this represents two industry-shaking innovators challenging the old ways of doing things to create something entirely new that will further connect customers and scare competitors.”

Musk said the agreement will benefit consumers while improving safety and security, noting that it “means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone.” 

T-Mobile’s announcement did not contain any information about what the new satellite coverage will cost.

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