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Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite constellation, achieved a groundbreaking milestone this month by enabling text messaging over 4G/LTE connections between mobile phones using its latest v2mini satellites. Similar initiatives from Amazon, Apple, AST SpaceMobile, Huawei, and Lynk Global highlight a trend where satellites are evolving into essential components of mobile communication networks. Starlink aims to extend its services to subscribers of at least eight global mobile-network operators, with plans to potentially offer voice and data coverage directly through satellites in the future, eliminating the need for ground terminals, according to a statement from its U.S. partner T-Mobile.

 

 

 

 

This development underscores the ongoing convergence of satellites and cellular base stations. Various companies are capitalizing on cost-effective satellite fabrication and launches, coupled with advancements like beamforming, to bridge the gap between mobile phones and orbiting satellites, overcoming challenges posed by the rapid movement of Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Notably, these satellites are becoming the mobile component of the network, moving at high speeds, requiring innovative solutions for efficient communication with Earth’s surface.

 

 

 

 

Companies tackling these challenges have successfully sent and received text messages on conventional phones via commercial satellites (Huawei/China Telecom; Lynk Global; Apple/Globalstar) and conducted voice and data calls over 5G through experimental satellites (AST SpaceMobile), as reported by IEEE Spectrum. The investment community has taken notice, with Lynk Global set to go public at a valuation of up to $800 million, and AST SpaceMobile attracting investments from major players like AT&T, Google, and Vodafone, boasting a market capitalization of $674.6 million. The convergence of satellite and cellular technologies marks a significant shift in communication paradigms, opening up new possibilities for enhanced global connectivity.

 

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