T-Mobile and SpaceX’s efforts to join cellular and satellite phone service are getting a bit of help from the FCC.
The FCC has unveiled “a new regulatory framework to facilitate innovative collaborations between satellite operators and wireless companies.” The framework will help cellular operators better tap into the growing network of satellites being used for internet service.
T-Mobile and SpaceX announced a deal for the nation’s second-largest carrier to use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation to help provide coast-to-coast coverage in the US.
“We’ve always thought differently about what it means to keep customers connected, and that’s why we’re working with the best to deliver coverage above and beyond anything customers have ever seen before,” said Mike Sievert, CEO and president of T-Mobile, said at the time of the announcement. “More than just a groundbreaking alliance, this represents two industry-shaking innovators challenging the old ways of doing things to create something entirely new that will further connect customers and scare competitors.”
The FCC’s proposed framework would make it easier for T-Mobile, SpaceX, and other companies to integrate their services:
The FCC proposes allowing authorized non-geostationary orbit satellite operators to apply to access terrestrial spectrum if certain prerequisites are met, including a lease from the terrestrial licensee within a specified geographic area. A satellite operator could then serve a wireless provider’s customers should they need connectivity in remote areas, for example in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, Lake Michigan, the 100-Mile Wilderness, or the Uinta Mountains.
“We are fast heading to a world where next-generation wireless networks will connect everyone and everything around us,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “They will open up possibilities for communications that we cannot even fully imagine today. But we will not be successful in our effort to make this always-on connectivity available to everyone, everywhere if we limit ourselves to using only one technology. We are going to need it all—fiber networks, licensed terrestrial wireless systems, next-generation unlicensed technology, and satellite broadband. But if we do this right, these networks will seamlessly interact in a way that is invisible to the user. We won’t need to think about what network, where, and what services are available. Connections will just work everywhere, all the time. “