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SpaceX Ready To Test Starlink Direct To Cell Service

In an FCC filing made this week SpaceX is seeking "special temporary authority" to commence testing of there Starlink Direct To Cell service on December 10, with a testing period lasting 180 days.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sat Dec 02 2023Written by Zac Aubert

SpaceX is seeking authorization from the FCC to tests there Starlink Direct To Cell service.

In an FCC filing made this week SpaceX is seeking "special temporary authority" to commence the test on December 10, with a testing period lasting 180 days.

The primary objective is to assess the system in collaboration with T-Mobile, utilizing the carrier’s licensed radio spectrum to transmit satellite connectivity to 2,000 test devices. The application for an experimental license comes amidst ongoing considerations by the FCC regarding granting full authorization for SpaceX to operate the innovative communication service.

According to the filing, "Over the 180-day experimental STA period, SpaceX expects to operate approximately 840 satellites with direct-to-cellular payloads". The application further details that during the experimental period, around 60 of the 840 satellite payloads will serve handsets in the United States. SpaceX plans to beam satellite connectivity to 13 locations across the country, including Mountain View, California; Kansas City, Kansas; and Houston, Texas.

This experimental STA will permit SpaceX to connect its direct-to-cellular antennas to cellulartest devices using the 1910-1915 MHz and 1990-1995 MHz bands (the “PCS G Block”) in cooperationwith T-Mobile USA, Inc

SpaceX is hoping to launch the cellular Starlink service next year, with plans to operate the technology with a total of 7,500 satellites. This isn't the first time SpaceX has applied to test the proposed cellular Starlink system.

In October, SpaceX filed a separate application for a similar test over a 60-day period starting in December. However, this faced resistance from AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association, arguing that SpaceX should have sought approval through an experimental license from the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology. Responding to the concerns, the new application from SpaceX adheres to the recommended process.

SpaceX has previously assured the FCC that the cellular Starlink system poses no radio signal threat. Nonetheless, the new application emphasizes the company's commitment to conducting real-world tests to assess potential interference risks. This includes measuring signal strength from Starlink satellites and T-Mobile handsets on the ground.

“SpaceX certifies that its direct-to-cellular system will operate without causing harmful interference to or requiring protection from any other service duly licensed in these bands or adjacent bands,” the application states. In case interference occurs, both SpaceX and T-Mobile pledge to take “all reasonable steps” to rectify the issue.

SpaceX urges the FCC to approve the application, stating, “These tests will enable SpaceX to more quickly realize the consumer benefits of its direct-to-cell technology without causing harmful interference to other licensed operators."

The outcome of this filing will be closely monitored as SpaceX continues to push the boundaries of satellite communication technology with Starlink.