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Starlink announces direct to device connectivity

In a WEB site update, Starlink announced that it would provide direct to device connectivity for LTE cell phones in the near future. Text service is announced for 2024 while voice & data plus IoT is planned for 2025. The so called ubiquitous coverage will be whereever on land, lakes or coastal waters.

This annoucement confirms what was expected for a long time by the industry and gives some ideas of what can be expected. This is quite important for the industry as SpaceX and Starlink have really been game changers…

First, no change is required to exiting phones: not even a software update or specific app is required, which is a technical feat. Standard LTE phones will be required and it is not clear what is a such a phone.

Second, the coverage will clearly be limited with no oceanic area service offered. As this make sense, this also shows that Starlink will select areas to serve.

Third, the frequency issue is unclear as authorizations will be needed to offer such a service, at least for voice/data. Regulatory issues are still blocking Starlink broadband service in some areas.

Fourth, Starlink is partnering with a number of operators to address the markets. The operators cover Northe America, the Pacific and Japan. Other geographies do not seem to be adressed like Africa, South America or South East Asia. In Europe, the partner is Salt mobile, a small Swiss operator. Which leads to the question of the lack of interest of Starlink for EU or the lack of interest of EU operators for Starlink…

And finally, the arrival of Starlink will probably have a huge impact on the industry. Its broadband service is already shaking up existing players (in essence all GEO operators) but the companies already have a market and customer base so they can show some resilience. In oppostion, the Direct 2 Device market is nascent with many startups that are much more fragile… New satellite startups providing 5G connectivity as well as IoT players are likely to be impacted as SpaceX/Starlink has always a massive impact on the industry it touches.

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