T-Mobile partners with SpaceX in effort to end cellphone dead zones

T-Mobile is partnering with SpaceX to use satellites to expand the carrier’s coverage to remote parts of the United States, the companies said Thursday.

The partnership would allow T-Mobile, the second-largest carrier in the United States, to service customers in areas with no cell towers or wireless networks using Starlink satellites. The Bellevue, Wash.-based telco said that more than half a million square miles of the United States did not currently have cell coverage.

“This partnership is the end of mobile dead zones,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said at a news conference with SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “This is important for safety, it is important for contact with the people we love, and it is important for people in rural areas.”

T-Mobile will begin using satellites to test messaging services in remote areas by the end of next year, before expanding to data and voice coverage, Sievert said. He expects that the service will be included in T-Mobile’s most popular plans at no extra cost.

“An important thing . . . is that you will not need to get a new phone,” Musk said. “The phone you currently have will work.”

“It solves real coverage problems in areas that cannot be served terrestrial, and will save lives when people need help and rescue,” said Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential, a research firm. “It will keep people living away from the grid affordably connected and provides a level of redundancy when the network on the ground goes down.”