T-Cell and SpaceX get set to announce ‘one thing particular’ for Starlink connectivity

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An artist’s conception shows Starlink satellites in orbit. (SpaceX Illustration)

FOLLOW-UP: T-Mobile’s coverage will get a big boost from SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, starting with texts

The CEOs of SpaceX and T-Mobile will join forces on Thursday to reveal how their companies will work together to increase wireless connectivity.

Details about the announcement, set to be live-streamed at 7 p.m. CT (5 p.m. PT) from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas, haven’t been made public. But the plan seems likely to involve using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation and T-Mobile’s cellular network to boost subscribers’ access and both companies’ fortunes.

“This is something special,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet.

Mike Sievert, the CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile, will join Musk for Thursday’s presentation on YouTube:

Combining cellular and satellite access would give both companies an advantage in the market for voice, text and data connectivity.

Over the past three years, SpaceX has launched more than 3,000 of its Starlink satellites, which are manufactured at the company’s facility in Redmond, Wash. Starlink is said to have about 400,000 subscribers, even though the service is still in limited-availability mode.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile has more than 100 million subscribers for its services, including next-generation 5G connectivity. T-Mobile could open up new opportunities for expanding Starlink’s reach, perhaps by using satellite links to augment T-Mobile’s existing network and fill in coverage gaps. In return, Starlink could make use of T-Mobile’s ground-based network.

Last year, Musk said SpaceX had “two quite significant partnerships” with major telecommunications companies, but couldn’t reveal who they were. More recently, another signal of SpaceX’s intentions came when the Federal Communications Commission gave its OK for Starlink to provide mobile internet service.

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Both T-Mobile and SpaceX are facing what could become an increasingly competitive market for broadband internet services. On the terrestrial wireless front, where 5G is the new frontier, T-Mobile has to fend off rivals including Verizon and AT&T. And in the satellite broadband market, Starlink could face competition in low Earth orbit from OneWeb (which recently struck a merger deal with Eutelsat) and Amazon’s yet-to-be-launched Project Kuiper network.

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