After SpaceX announced that it will deliver 5G Internet directly from space and Apple hinted that it might support the technology in future iPhone and Watch models, it is now Google’s turn: Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer confirmed that the technology will be officially supported starting with Android version 14.
The news comes after SpaceX and U.S. phone carrier T-Mobile announced at a press conference that they will provide 5G coverage wherever it is needed, including over the sea.
The 5G smartphone coverage will be delivered via purpose-built satellites, with the first of these devices scheduled to be launched into orbit and added to the Starlink constellation in the first half of September 2022.
After the initial test phase, in which coverage will be limited to a few regions in the U.S., SpaceX will expand coverage under the Starlink model so that anyone with a 5G-capable phone can get cellular reception and mobile Internet access anywhere in the world, with no prospect of censorship, by ordering a SIM card from one of the phone carriers that are partners of Elon Musk’s company.
The direct connection to SpaceX satellites is managed through the phone along the lines of roaming connections and allows both voice calls to that phone number and mobile Internet access.
Apart from using a supported version of Android or iOS, the only hardware requirement is that the 5G phone natively supports the n41-5G communications band (part of the 2.5 GHz spectrum).
Since we are talking about connections with 5G satellites in Earth orbit, we cannot wait for the signal to penetrate the buildings as well. The coverage achieved with the help of Starlink satellites serves as a backup solution in case the connection cannot be established with relay phones on the ground.
Since this is an emergency solution, the fact that the speed of the Internet connection is limited to 2-4 Mbps should not bother anyone. This limit will likely be gradually lifted as the number of satellites available for connectivity increases. Elon Musk also says that each connected satellite can receive between 1,000 and 2,000 phone calls and countless SMS messages at once.
VP Lockheimer notes that Google is already working with partners to enable satellite communications for phones starting next year. However, it is not clear whether the term partner refers to satellite communications providers such as SpaceX and OneWeb, or wireless carriers such as T-Mobile, or both.