In 2003, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Declaration of Principles on Internet Access was adopted, reaffirming the importance of the Information Society in maintaining and strengthening Human rights around Internet Access. Then in 2016 the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding Resolution that declared “Internet access is a Human Right”.
Fast forward to 2022 and 6% of the United Kingdom – that’s 1.5 million adults still do not have access to the Internet does not have proper access to Banking Services, Education, Online Shopping, GP Appointment Bookings and Entertainment that reside solely online, not to mention Working from Home during COVID.
In 2016 the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding Resolution that “declared internet access a human right”
When looking beyond our shores, the figures are vast – 2.9 Billion people do not have access or have never used the Internet. Much of these people live in countries with large rural populations – much of Asia, including India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh where the cost of linking towns and villages to the local Telephone and Mobile network would be prohibitively expensive.
Even in Technologically advanced countries like the United States, approximately 19 million people in the U.S. still lack access to fixed broadband service at threshold speeds. The largest impacted group is in rural areas, where a quarter of the population — 14.5 million people — lack access to these broadband services.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone for the last three years you will be aware that SpaceX is looking to change this and bring global Internet Access to the Billions that currently have no access via its’ Starlink Satellite Broadband Constellation – providing satellite Internet access coverage to 39 countries with global coverage with satellite personal communications service after 2023. With a target of 42,000 satellites, SpaceX started launching in 2019.
In the United States, despite powerful LTE and 5G terrestrial wireless networks, more than 20% of the area and 90% of the Earth remain uncovered by wireless companies. These dead zones have consequences for rural communities and those who travel off the grid for work or leisure. The telecom industry has struggled to cover these areas with traditional cellular technology due to land-use restrictions (e.g. National Parks), terrain limits (e.g. mountains, deserts and other topographical realities) and the globe’s sheer vastness. In those areas, people are either left disconnected or resort to lugging around a satellite phone and paying exorbitant rates.
On August 25 2022 an announcement by Elon Musk in his capacity as SpaceX Chief Engineer alongside Mike Sievert – T-Mobile CEO and President will bring Starlink Broadband access directly to Cell phones on the T-Mobile network. President Mike Sievert and SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk announced Coverage Above and Beyond: a breakthrough new plan to bring cell phone connectivity everywhere. Leveraging Starlink, SpaceX’s constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, and T-Mobile’s industry-leading wireless network, the Un-carrier plans to provide near complete coverage in most places in the U.S. – even in many of the most remote locations previously unreachable by traditional cell signals.
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. And as 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 due to land-use restrictions (e.g. National Parks), 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 sat phone. SpaceX and T-Mobile share a vision where these uncovered areas are a relic of the past, and today, the companies are taking a first step to make that vision a reality.
From the middle of Death Valley to the Great Smokey Mountains or even that persistent neighbourhood 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 ground breaking 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.
In addition, the CEOs shared their vision for expanding Coverage Above and Beyond globally, issuing an open invitation to the world’s carriers to collaborate for truly global connectivity. T-Mobile committed to offer reciprocal roaming to those providers working with them to enable this vision.
The news is the next step in T-Mobile’s quest to deliver Coverage Beyond. Earlier this year, the Un-carrier gave customers enhanced connectivity beyond the reach of its network – in the air and abroad. Today’s move is the next step on the path to provide the ultimate coverage experience.
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