The Starlink satellite mobile service will be available in 2024, initially only for SMS –

Starlink’s satellite cellular service will be available in 2024, initially only for text messaging. To be able to use voice and data, a new generation of microsatellites is needed.

The launch of the highly anticipated mobile satellite service from Starlink, direct-to-cell, is expected to be available for SMS sometime in 2024, judging by the recent opening of a page on the company’s website. The system ultimately provides “wide access to text messaging, calls and web browsing wherever you are on land, lake or coast” and connects to IoT devices via the LTE standard.

Starlink partnered with T-Mobile for this project, which was announced in August during the Coverage and Above and Beyond event. This collaboration allows T-Mobile to reserve a portion of 5G spectrum for use by second-generation Starlink satellites; Starlink, in turn, allows T-Mobile smartphones to access the satellite network by giving the provider “nearly complete coverage” of the United States.

During the event last August, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Starlink V2” would be available on select smartphones as well as Tesla vehicles this year. “The most important thing is that there will no longer be any dead spots in the world for your phone,” Elon Musk said in a press release at the time. “We are incredibly excited to be doing this with T-Mobile.” However, that estimate was corrected during a discussion in March at the 2023 Satellite Conference and Exhibition, when Jonathan Hofeller, Starlink’s vice president of corporate sales, said that testing would begin in 2020 would begin in 2023.

To benefit from voice and data, a new generation of microsatellites is needed

The existing constellation of 4,265 satellites is not compatible with the new cellular service. Starlink will therefore have to bring completely new microsatellites with the eNodeB modem onto the market in the next few years. And as these satellites proliferate in orbit, voice and data capabilities can be offered to the general public.

As a satellite-only SMS service, Direct-to-Cell is in direct competition with Apple and its Emergency SOS via Satellite feature introduced in iOS 14, as well as Qualcomm Snapdragon Satellite, which has been providing SMS messaging on Android since its in-orbit use. Smartphones enable the constellation Iridium. Competition is expected to be fierce in this emerging market, as Charles Miller, CEO of Lynk Global, explained during the March event, adding that cellular satellite services could be the “largest category in satellite.”