Second-generation Starlink Support Mobile Communications

On August 25th, SpaceX announced that the second generation of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite technology will provide space-to-ground Internet service to cell phones. The project is expected to enter the test service phase by the end of 2023.

Currently, SpaceX’s Starlink service requires a dish-shaped ground terminal, because the existing satellites transmit signal is too weak to connect much smaller cell phones. To solve this problem, the second generation of the Starlink satellites will carry a much more powerful phased array antenna.

To achieve this goal, in addition to addressing regulatory issues, the main challenge for SpaceX is to design and build large satellites capable of talking to mobile phones. The second generation of Starlink satellites weighs 295 kg and is too large for the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing, so the next generation of Starship rocket is being designed and built, and operational launches could take at least a year.

The service is not expected to provide mobile broadband Internet service in the initial phase, according to its wireless carriers partner T-Mobile U.S.. But the project could provide each device, with up to 2 to 4 megabits of data, which is enough for thousands of voice calls or millions of text messages.

At the same time, T-Mobile planned to offer this satellite internet to its users for free, as an additional service to its existing plans. A user’s phone will first look for service from the cell tower, and when it does not detect a signal, the phone will search the sky. Then it will get a connection from the nearest available satellite, and the software on the satellite communicates with the phone, just like building a virtual cell tower on the ground. In addition, the Starlink satellites may also provide “backhaul” capacity for remote cell towers on Earth, which will be connected to the Internet via satellite, and wireless carriers will not have to run wires to the towers.

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Translator: NFSC News
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