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SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk revealed earlier today that his company has been in talks with the Cupertino, California consumer technology giant Apple, Inc for enabling satellite connectivity on the latter’s iPhone through SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service. Apple’s latest iPhone model, unveiled yesterday, brought the much anticipated and awaited satellite connectivity feature to the smartphone, but as was expected, limited it to emergency uses. Musk’s service made headlines last month when it teamed up with mobile carrier T-Mobile to eliminate cellular blind spots throughout the United States, in a bid that the executive described as being crucial to providing lifesaving services to people in need and ensuring that more connectivity options are available to Americans.
Elon Musk Shares That Starlink Discussions With Apple Were "Promising" But Holds Back From Providng More Details
Musk shared details of talks between his company and Apple on his Twitter account today, and revealed that they involved bringing Starlink connectivity to iPhone users. He stressed that any collaboration will depend on a smartphone's hardware and software being compatible with satellite internet - a fact that is likely to have been the subject of discussion between SpaceX and Apple particularly as the iPhone maker is notorious for its closed-gate ecosystem that strictly controls the software applications and hardware compatibility with all of its devices, including its notebooks and other hardware.
In his tweet, Musk also praised the iPhone team and shared that they met his expectations. Sharing his encounter, the executive outlined that:
We’ve had some promising conversations with Apple about Starlink connectivity. iPhone team is obv super smart.
For sure, closing link from space to phone will work best if phone software & hardware adapt to space-based signals vs Starlink purely emulating cell tower.
Starlink's expansion to join forces with mobile companies comes as the service expands its paws to other spectrums. Currently, its user terminals, or dishes, use higher frequency bands to beam data to and from satellites, but Musk's announcement with T-Mobile hinted that it is moving in to swoop over lower frequency bands as well.
The announcement came after Starlink requested the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow it to use the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) spectrum for expanding connectivity for both the general public and government users. It came as the internet service is in the middle of a tough fight with DISH and multi channel data distribution service (MVDDS) providers to retain access to the 12GHz spectrum - a fight that has seen Starlink warn about severe network degradation across the U.S. if it were to lose.
Starlink functionality with T-Mobile and other mobile users will depend on the service's second-generation spacecraft making their way to orbit. According to Musk, these will use large and special antennas to specifically beam down the mobile frequency bands. The launch of these satellites in turn depends on SpaceX's Starship rocket that is currently being developed at its facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.
Given Apple's nature of waiting until a technology is in its late development cycle before a product launch, it is unlikely for the company to make an announcement or support Starlink on its devices for the time being. T-Mobile itself expects the early stage beta testing of its SpaceX partnership to start late next year, and Apple will undoubtedly watch the results of this collaboration before making the jump with its best-selling product.
For its part, SpaceX tested its Starship Booster 7 prototype earlier today, which saw the company carry out another spin prime test. This test involves testing the rocket's engine pumps to ensure that they are pumping the correct amount of fuel and oxidizer to the combustion chamber, and is a pre-requisite to the much more exciting and crucial static fire test which then tests the engines by firing them up. Whether SpaceX will conduct a static fire of all the engines at the same time is unclear for now, but it has been gradually increasing the engines for its spin prime tests.