AT&T is trying to block T-Mobile’s plan to use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network to expand its mobile service.
The Federal Communications Commission requested public comment on T-Mobile’s plan for SpaceX last month. AT&T and its affiliates filed a complaint Thursday, asking the agency to halt the plan and saying it could “jeopardize or interfere” with its wireless and mobile broadband services.
AT&T has rights to spectrum near the range SpaceX will use for that plan, which would require the latter to change its license for its network of orbiting satellites to receive and broadcast signals to and from mobile devices. SpaceX will use the so-called PCS G-Block of signal bands that are between the 1.9 GHz and 2 GHz range, according to Ars Technica, which reported the story earlier Friday.
SpaceX has requested an exemption from using this signal range. AT&T says its proposal doesn’t do enough to prevent interference with other networks, saying in its filing that “SpaceX’s technical demonstrations are grossly inadequate with respect to the risk of harmful interference posed by their planned [supplemental coverage from space] deployments.”
Although SpaceX and T-Mobile have not released a successful call from space to demonstrate the plan’s lack of disruption, AT&T noted that it has already made a surface-to-space call with its satellite partner AST SpaceMobile.
AT&T has not announced when its own customers will see the benefit of the satellite partnership with AST, which aims to expand regular 5G service. Its advantage is that AST has been connecting satellite calls for years, while SpaceX’s network of microsatellites will need approval before it can make calls. Verizon also announced that it will use Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites (none of which have yet been put into orbit) to expand its mobile network.
Meanwhile, Apple’s Emergency SOS system, available only on the latest iPhone 14 series, is the only widespread satellite-to-cell system in use so far. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite service is expected to go live later this year for phones using the latest Snapdragon chips.
Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile immediately responded to a request for comment.