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SpaceX launches first set of satellites with direct-to-cell capabilities

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T-Mobile US said SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket on January 3, 2024, with the first set of Starlink satellites that can beam phone signals from space directly to smartphones. The U.S wireless carrier will use Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to provide mobile users with network access in parts of the United States, the companies had announced in August 2022.

Other wireless providers across the world, including Japan’s KDDI, Australia’s Optus, New Zealand’s One NZ, Canada’s Rogers will collaborate with SpaceX to launch direct-to-cell technology. The direct-to-cell service at first will begin with text messaging followed by voice and data capabilities in the coming years, T-Mobile said.

Not being an expert, I asked Chat GPT “What are the advantages of direct-to-cell service from StarLink satellites?”

  1. Ubiquitous Coverage: Satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) can provide coverage to remote or underserved areas where terrestrial infrastructure is lacking or costly to deploy.
  2. Low Latency: Traditional satellite internet services often suffer from high latency due to the distance signals must travel to geostationary satellites and back. Starlink’s LEO satellites are closer to Earth, potentially reducing this latency significantly.
  3. High Data Throughput: With a large number of satellites in the constellation and advanced communication technology, Starlink can offer higher data throughput compared to traditional satellite services.
  4. Resilience: Satellite-based services can be more resilient to terrestrial disruptions such as natural disasters or infrastructure failures, providing an alternative means of communication.
  5. Scalability: The modular nature of the satellite constellation allows for relatively easy expansion and scalability, potentially enabling rapid deployment in new regions or to meet increased demand.
  6. Competition and Market Dynamics: Introducing a new player like Starlink into the telecommunications market could foster competition, potentially leading to improved service offerings, pricing, and innovation in the industry.
  7. Flexibility for Cellular Operators: Direct-to-cell service from Starlink could provide cellular operators with additional options for backhaul connectivity, potentially reducing costs and improving service reliability.
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Posted by Alex Hodges
Alex has 40+ years of experience in the industry with a specific interest in the international P&C business. Alex began his career with Rollins Burdick Hunter Co in Chicago; moved to New York with the firm; then back to Chicago HQ after the acquisition of RBH by Aon. As part of Aon’s global acquisition team, he moved to The Netherlands to help with the integration of Hudig-Langeveldt and Frank B. Hall in Europe, Scandinavia, United Kingdom and the Middle East. Alex has expertise managing large multinational insurance programs. His last position with Aon was managing the Aon-owned Strategic Underwriters International MGA for Kidnap, Ransom & Extortion, Workplace Violence and Political Risk. Alex is the founder of Insurance Services Network Corporation and Editor-in-Chief of the IRL – Insurance Research Letter.

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