Elon Musk‘s Starlink internet project is already operating in beta for some users and the company is sending out dozens of satellites every month, now Musk has plans to offer phone service too.
Elon Musk applied to FCC to offer phone service using Starlink satellites
SpaceX has recently applied to FCC to be able to offer a phone service with voice calls and cheaper plans for low-income households. This doesn’t mean we’re going to have 4G and 5G from Starlink satellites directly to mobile. It is more like a calling service using landline telephony and taking advantage of existing wired networks.
Starlink is currently proposed as a satellite Internet project to provide network connectivity in rural areas with the use of its satellites in space. But they also plan to add VoIP calling services. This is why they have applied to the U.S. authorities for ETC status, which allows them to be a telephone operator.
ETC status has some extra advantages for SpaceX, such as qualifying for the U.S. Lifeline program. This program provides carriers with subsidies and grants to offer lower-priced phone and broadband plans.
It is still not entirely clear how they would deploy this service. Being VoIP implies that users will be able to make calls by taking advantage of the network and Internet connection instead of the traditional network.
Elon Musk’s plan to conquer communication in rural areas is ambitious, although having thousands of satellites in orbit makes it more feasible. While other operators rely on terrestrial cabling and antennas, Starlink can reach literally anywhere on the globe wirelessly from space.
Now, it remains to be seen what the final price of the Starlink will be. Currently, in the beta period, the price is $99 plus installation equipment costs. U.S. subsidies may help reduce that cost.
Starlink is currently operating in beta in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.