By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

No More “Dead” Zones on Your Mobile Phone.

Mobile phones have changed the way we communicate.  Instead of being tied to a wire at home or having to find a payphone, most of us carry our phones in our pocket.   They work in a lot of places but not everywhere.

Dead zones have been a problem with mobile phones since they were invented.  While coverage gets better there are still many places where you can’t make a call or a call is dropped.  This can be annoying or even dangerous if you need urgent help.

SpaceX and T-Mobile are working to change this.   Through a program called Coverage Above and Beyond the goal is to bring cell phone coverage everywhere.  That’s everywhere on Earth.

SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert announced the details in a recent event held in Starbase, TX.

Today, despite powerful LTE and 5G wireless networks, well over half a million square miles of the U.S. in addition to vast stretches of ocean are untouched by cell signals … from ANY provider.  Anyone who has ever encountered a mobile dead zone knows, the wireless industry has struggled to cover these areas with traditional terrestrial cellular technology most often dealing with land-use restrictions such as National Park’s regulations, terrain limits (e.g. mountains, deserts, and other topographical realities), and America’s sheer vastness.  In those areas people are either disconnected or pay exorbitant rates to lug around a satellite phone. SpaceX and T-Mobile share a vision where these uncovered areas are a relic of the past, and today these companies are taking a first step to make that vision a reality.

From the middle of Death Valley to the Great Smoky Mountains or even that persistent neighborhood dead zone, T-Mobile and SpaceX have a vision to give customers a crucial additional layer of connectivity in areas previously unreachable by cell signals from any provider. And the service aims to work with the phone already in your pocket. The vast majority of smartphones already on T-Mobile’s network will be compatible with the new service using the device’s existing radio.  No extra equipment to buy.   It just works.

“We’ve always thought differently about what it means to keep customers connected, and that’s why we’re working with the best to deliver coverage above and beyond anything customers have ever seen before,” said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile.  “More than just a groundbreaking alliance, this represents two industry-shaking innovators challenging the old ways of doing things to create something entirely new that will further connect customers and scare competitors.”

“The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” said SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk. “We’re incredibly excited to do this with T-Mobile.”

To provide this service, the companies will create a new network broadcast from Starlink’s satellites using T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum nationwide. This true satellite-to-cellular service will provide nearly complete coverage almost anywhere a customer can see the sky.

With this technology, T-Mobile is planning to give customers text coverage practically everywhere in the continental US, Hawaii, parts of Alaska, Puerto Rico and territorial waters, even outside the signal of T-Mobile’s network starting with a beta in select areas by the end of next year after SpaceX’s planned satellite launches. Text messaging, including SMS, MMS, and participating messaging apps will empower customers to stay connected and share experiences nearly everywhere. Afterwards, the companies plan to pursue the addition of voice and data coverage.

The CEOs shared their vision for expanding Coverage Above and Beyond globally issuing an open invitation to the world’s carriers to collaborate for true global connectivity.  T-Mobile committed to offer reciprocal roaming to those providers working with them to enable this vision.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

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