In the wake of SpaceX’s deal with T-Mobile to provide data services for mobile customers, SpaceX filed for approval to use the 1.6 and 2.4 GHz bands for mobile satellite services.
The filing with the FCC will deliver Internet access to mobile devices in dead zones. SpaceX had previously hinted at interest in providing data for mobile devices with a filing for access to the 2 GHz spectrum.
“By granting SpaceX access to [the additional] spectrum, the Commission can provide Americans with more options for mobile satellite services in otherwise unserved areas of the country, as well as other parts of the world, and ensure that consumers everywhere are able to fully harness the growth and development of IoT applications and devices,” SpaceX said in the filing.
The additional spectrum for mobile devices will use SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, which it regularly launches into low-Earth orbit. The satellites are already nearly capable of keeping up with “traditional” landline broadband Internet when it comes to upload and download speeds.
Because they orbit at lower altitudes than the geosynchronous satellites used by some other satellite Internet services, Starlink satellites can provide lower latency, or response times. SpaceX claims that the proposed mobile service could get latency of less than 50 milliseconds.
Perhaps anticipating challenges from other competitors, SpaceX stresses that operating in the 1.6 and 2.4 GHz spectrums will not interfere with other satellite operators. Globastar already has approval to operate at those frequencies and is already by used by Apple for its Emergency SOS service. SpaceX emphasizes that the FCC has not granted Globastar “perpetual exclusive use of the bands.”
Competitors like ViaSat and Amazon’s Project Kuiper have filed regulatory challenges to Starlink, sometimes even going so far as to file a court case. In ViaSat’s case, a judge dismissed its request for a stay on Starlink launches on the grounds that “Viasat has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.” Their challenges have, of course, sometimes gotten on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s nerves.
Earlier this year, Tesla let information about its Mobile Pi phone leak. The Mobile Pi will reportedly be solar powered and capable of connecting with Starlink. Some people speculated that the Mobile Pi would primarily be used with Tesla vehicles to control locking, unlocking, temperature, and media. They also said that it might even be used with Neuralink, allowing people to control their phones with their thoughts.
There was some speculation that the Mobile Pi would even work on Mars. Elon Musk has made no secret of his ambitions for SpaceX and Mars, including the possibility of establishing a significantly sized settlement on Mars.
Elon Musk denied reports that Tesla was working on a Smart Watch. He has not denied that Neuralink would be useful for controlling personal devices even if someone doesn’t have the use of their hands, though.
By connecting with Starlink, mobile devices like the possibly upcoming Mobile Pi could eliminate annoying mobile service dead zones. T-Mobile did mention that some of its cheapest plans would require an upcharge for access to Starlink but it would solve the problem of “dead zones” and unreliable service.