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SpaceX Receives approval to test its Starlink mobile services

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Destiny Young
Destiny Younghttp://linktr.ee/youngdestinya
Destiny Young is a highly credentialed information technology professional with over 14 years of industry experience. An HND/BSc (Hons) in Computer Science graduate. He holds a Master of Technology degree in Information Technology from the prestigious University of South Africa (UNISA). He is a Distinction-grade MBA alumnus of Nexford University, Washington, DC, where he also obtained a First-class MSc degree in Digital Transformation. His professional development direction is in Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, and Business Intelligence. He is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute of Administration of Nigeria (CIA), the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), etc.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has received permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test its Starlink mobile service, which will use satellites to provide internet access to smartphones in various locations across the US.

Pilot run for 180 days
The FCC granted SpaceX an “experimental special temporary authorization” on Thursday, allowing the company to conduct the pilot project for 180 days, or until June 14 next year. The test will use T-Mobile’s spectrum to send data to unmodified phones on the ground via Starlink satellites.

The approval comes a week after the FCC initially gave SpaceX a partial nod to deploy the Starlink mobile service. That approval only enabled the company to launch satellites with the technology needed for the mobile service. However, it restricted SpaceX from doing any other testing besides checking the functionality of the satellite antennas.

On the other hand, the latest authorization enables SpaceX to test the core functionality of the Starlink mobile service: delivering data to smartphones on Earth using the 1910-1915 and 1990-1995MHz radio bands.

Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capability have an advanced eNodeB modem onboard that acts like a cellphone tower in space, allowing network integration similar to a standard roaming partner.

Deploying 840 satellites as cell towers
SpaceX plans to use 840 satellites, each acting as a cell tower in orbit, to provide connectivity to 2,000 test devices on the ground. The company initially proposed to test the service in 13 locations but later added 12 more “radioastronomy sites” to the list.

According to the company’s application, around 60 of the 840 satellite payloads will be allocated for serving handsets in the United States. The test locations for this experimental authorization include Mountain View in California, Kansas City in Kansas, Redmond in Washington, and Dallas in Texas.

The tests will help SpaceX and the FCC assess the potential interference issues that the Starlink mobile service may cause to other radio spectrum users in the US, such as other carriers and satellite operators. Several companies, including AT&T, Dish Network, and Globalstar, have expressed their worries about the Starlink mobile service interfering with their services.

SpaceX has responded to these concerns by claiming that the Starlink mobile service will be a boon for US consumers and not a threat to the radio spectrum.

However, the FCC also has the authority to stop the testing if it causes harmful interference. The document states that SpaceX must stop operations immediately upon notification of such interference under this grant of special temporary authorization. Furthermore, SpaceX must inform the Commission in writing immediately if such an event occurs.

SpaceX will launch the Starlink mobile service for T-Mobile and other partners sometime in 2024, starting with test messages. Voice and data services are expected to follow in 2025.

Destiny Young
Destiny Young is a highly credentialed information technology professional with over 14 years of industry experience. An HND/BSc (Hons) in Computer Science graduate. He holds a Master of Technology degree in Information Technology from the prestigious University of South Africa (UNISA). He is a Distinction-grade MBA alumnus of Nexford University, Washington, DC, where he also obtained a First-class MSc degree in Digital Transformation. His professional development direction is in Cybersecurity, Digital Transformation, and Business Intelligence. He is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Chartered Institute of Administration of Nigeria (CIA), the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), etc.
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