T-Mobile will use SpaceX satellites to expand the carrier’s coverage in remote areas of the United States, the companies said Thursday. The partnership will allow T-Mobile, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, to tap SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation to provide service to customers in areas without cell towers. T-Mobile, Bellevue, Wash. based, says the United States has no more than 500,000 square miles of cell coverage.
“This partnership is the end of the mobile dead zone,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said at a news conference Thursday with SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “It’s important for safety, it’s important for communication with the people we love and it’s important for people in rural areas.”
T-Mobile will begin using Starlink satellites to test messaging services in remote areas by the end of next year, before expanding data and voice coverage, Sievert said. He expects the service to be included in T-Mobile’s most popular plans at no additional cost.
Musk said the satellite service was meant to complement existing networks, not replace them. SpaceX is also looking to partner with other carriers around the world to make the service available outside the United States, he said. In March, SpaceX provided access to its Starlink satellites to Ukraine to prevent massive internet outages following the Russian attack.
“We’ve all read about someone who was hiking, got lost or died of thirst or exposure,” Musk said. “You could probably be stuck on a desert island talking to a basketball and now you can call for help.”