SpaceX received approval to launch 7,500 Starlink satellites by the Federal Communications Commission on December 1st. The FCC only partially approved SpaceX’s application, as the company aims to launch 30,000 “Gen2” Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
“Our action will allow SpaceX to begin deployment of Gen2 Starlink, which will bring next generation satellite broadband to Americans nationwide, including those living and working in areas traditionally unserved or underserved by terrestrial systems,” the FCC wrote.
This approval by the FCC is vital for the recently announced partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile back in August. Dubbed “Coverage Above & Beyond,” the two companies aim to utilize Starlink’s Gen2 satellites with T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum — which roughly equates to their 3G network.
Note, connectivity will be 2 to 4 Mbits per cell zone, so will work great for texting & voice calls, but not high bandwidth
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 26, 2022
As Elon Musk indicates, these speeds are primarily only useful for texting and voice calls, but has the potential to eliminate mobile dead zones in “over half a million square miles of the U.S.”
“The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” Musk said. “We’re incredibly excited to do this with T-Mobile.”
A spokesperson for T-Mobile also clarified on this matter with The Washington Post.
“We’re not claiming to cover rural America with this,” the T-Mobile spokesman said. “This partnership is about going beyond the limitations of cellular networks and the wireless industry today to eliminate mobile dead zones which are often a result of land-use restrictions, terrain limits and America’s sheer vastness.”
According to the announcement, “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.”
The feature, according to T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert, will be included on the company’s “most popular” wireless plans.
On the topic of cell phones and Musk, the Twitter CEO recently claimed that Apple was threatening to remove Twitter from their App Store.
Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022
This was cleared up a couple days later, with Elon Musk tweeting that the “misunderstanding” had been “resolved.”
Good conversation. Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store. Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2022
The controversy — if it can be called that — did bring up an interesting sentiment that Musk replied to: making his own smartphone.
I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 25, 2022
Rumors have been circulating since early 2021 about a Tesla smartphone, often referred to as the model Pi or Pi phone. Tesla and Musk have been notably quiet on the subject, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from speculating on the features. Some seem likely, such as satellite internet, vehicle control features on Tesla models, and even astrophotography — powerful cameras aided by AI to photograph the night sky. Other speculations are arguably a bit more farfetched: solar charging, crypto mining, communication with settlers on Mars, and Neuralink support to name a few.
Neuralink: Interfacing with the brain
Neuralink is another one of Musk’s ventures — implants that would allow the human brain to connect to a computer. Neuralink is seeking government approval to begin testing on human subjects. The company tested the implants on monkeys at the University of California, Davis Primate Center (UC Davis) earlier this year.
Neuralink highlighted a monkey playing the computer game “Pong” in April with the implant but were forced to respond to accusations of animal cruelty after a US non-profit sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture. Neuralink did confirm that monkeys had died during testing but maintained no animal cruelty occurred and that “all novel medical devices and treatments must be tested in animals before they can be ethically trialed in humans.”
Twitter may be taking on YouTube
Another industry besides cell phone manufacturers that Musk may be entering is video hosting. Twitter currently only allows video files of up to 512MB and requires longer videos to be trimmed down to 2 minutes and 20 seconds. A currently unverified source, “Wong,” has stated that Twitter Blue will increase these limits to 2GB and 2 hours — leaving some to question if Musk intends to go up against the juggernaut that is YouTube.
— T(w)itter Takeover News (@TitterTakeover) November 30, 2022
Twitter Blue Labs — an early access testing program — does list longer video uploads among its features at 10 minutes long but may see a significant boost to that time if “Wong” is correct.
Regardless of speculation on what industry Musk is entering next, his most recent venture, Twitter, is attempting to woo back companies after losing half of its top advertisers in the weeks after he took over. Advertising accounts for roughly 90% of Twitter’s revenue, leaving the social media company little choice but to incentivize brands to return.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter’s new plan is to match advertiser spending with a “100% value add” for those that spend between $500,000-$1 million until the end of the year. Basically a “buy one, get one free” for ad space on Twitter.