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New Cellular Satellite Hybrid Service Could Have Big Benefits for Small Planes

The partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile will close global gaps in connectivity

New Cellular Satellite Hybrid Service Could Have Big Benefits for Small Planes

If the proposed joint venture between SpaceX and T-Mobile goes as planned, dead zones in remote locations will be as rare as a cheap low-time Skyhawk.

The new plan, which will co-exist with T-Mobile’s existing cellular network, as well as SpaceX’s Starlink Internet constellation, will provide T-Mobile cellular users with the ability to send texts, images and, ultimately, voice calls from geographic areas where cellular service simply does not currently exist.

Once deployed, the benefits of merging these two technologies go beyond convenience, with T-Mobile saying it will allow reliable satellite communication from most any cellphone on their network. It’s not hard to imagine what the benefit to general aviation would be when this technology comes to fruition (think emergency communications in desolate, hostile environments like Greenland, deserts across the globe and in the U.S. vast areas of Alaska, to name a few).

This technology will be made possible due to the planned implementation of a new mid-band spectrum in the Starlink constellation. For you radio frequency aficionados, mid-bands fall in the 3.5Ghz-6Ghz radio spectrum. This band is especially appealing for this particular purpose as it provides good coverage with plenty of data carrying capability, commonly referred to as “throughput.”  

While SpaceX’s constellation already has almost 3,000 Low Earth Orbit satellites in place, they plan on launching a next generation of satellites that SpaceX says will provide even better, more reliable connectivity due to improved, larger antennae.

While Elon Musk’s SpaceX has a head start in the satellite world with an existing fully functioning Internet constellation there are others who are in the process of building out spaced-based cellular broadband networks, including AST SpaceMobile, which is in a testing phase now, projecting the launch of their first operational satellite late in 2023.

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With space satellite technology moving at Mach speed, it’s safe to assume that one day in the not-so-distant future the answer to your, “Can you hear me now?” question might be relayed thru the vastness of space for the benefit of us all, particularly those in remote, underserved areas on our planet Earth.

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