At a joint event between SpaceX and T-Mobile, the two companies announced that they will be launching a direct-to-phone connection with Starlink Gen 2 satellites. Elon Musk took to Twitter soon after to confirm that this same connection will allow direct connections with Tesla vehicles.
SpaceX’s announcement with T-Mobile saw the companies announce that SpaceX will use a portion of T-Mobile’s existing 5G spectrum, the “mid-band PCS,” to allow updated Starlink satellites to connect directly to cellphones.
This connection will be limited – at only 2-4 megabits per cell area – but it will be enough to allow T-Mobile customers on their standard plans to send text messages or make phone calls even in some of the most remote areas of the globe. Musk said this speed is enough to support one or two thousand phone calls per cell area. This won’t support massive amounts of data, but it is more than enough to reach out via phone call or send text messages if you are truly in need of communication.
Because the satellites will use an existing spectrum, this means that existing cellphones will be able to connect through the service.
As new hardware will not be necessary on the consumer’s end, this led several people to ask whether Tesla vehicles will utilize their cellular connections to make emergency calls and texts.
Musk responded simply, “Yes.”
Another user asked if Tesla vehicles would gain the service in addition to Premium Connectivity, to which Musk also replied, “Yes,” so it’s not clear whether or not, when this service becomes available, it will require the customer to pay for Premium Connectivity.
T-Mobile plans to include this “Coverage Above and Beyond” with many of their existing plans for no extra cost, so seeing an important – and potentially life-saving – feature made available standard with Tesla vehicles would be a great move.
It will be some time until phones and Tesla vehicles will gain this capability though, as SpaceX’s much larger Gen 2 Starlink satellites will be the ones with the additional antennas to support cellular connections. Those will be launching on SpaceX’s Starship rocket in 2023 – with service expected to begin in late 2023. We know how Elon can be optimistic with his timelines, so this could be delayed as SpaceX works to deploy the satellites.
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