SpaceX sent to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Policy paper a 16-page document claiming that the operation of Starlink communications satellites with the ability to connect directly to regular smartphones will not affect terrestrial cellular networks. The space operator is requesting the Department to grant authorization to provide services in this format.
One of the FCC’s goals is to eliminate conflicts in radio communications in the United States. For mobile networks, the ministry ensures this by issuing licenses to operators to operate in specific bands in specific regions. Some companies have expressed concerns that SpaceX’s orbital base stations could disrupt ground-based networks. In response, the FCC requested from the operator a report on the specifics of the operation of orbital cellular communications and, in particular, asked for an answer as to whether it could turn off satellites if they cause interference in the 1.91 to 1.995 GHz range.
SpaceX emphasized in its report that there would be interference from satellites “unforeseen and unlikely”. She said the company carefully planned a system for direct access to base stations using phased array antennas and effective software to control signal direction, limiting the impact on terrestrial networks. This means Starlink has the ability to prevent unauthorized phones from connecting outside of the intended service area.
SpaceX designed Starlink to shut down any part of it, monitor coverage in real time, and provide communications in any number of available regions. The document contains several Starlink models that demonstrate how SpaceX can dynamically configure the network to protect other operators. The company expects to receive FCC approval to operate in this format next year. The project is being implemented together with the fixed network operator T-Mobile. At the initial stage, the companies will offer text messaging, by 2025 they plan to offer voice communications to subscribers in remote regions.
With the release of the iPhone 14, Apple was one of the first to offer direct connection of smartphones to satellites. A similar project was developed by Qualcomm and Iridium, but due to lack of demand it had to be closed before the release of the first compatible device.