Another big Aussie telco signs with Elon Musk's SpaceX – Bendigo Advertiser

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Australia’s second largest telco will expand its mobile coverage to 100 per cent of the country after signing a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture, Starlink.
The deal, announced on Wednesday, will see Optus use low-Earth orbit satellites to deliver voice calls, data and SMS messages in an Australian first when services launch in in the next two years.
Industry analysts say it could help connect “under-serviced” phone users in remote and regional areas who were still without coverage, though the partnership was unlikely to see Optus seriously challenge Telstra for network speed or reliability.
The latest Starlink deal comes nine days after the company announced plans to team with Telstra to deliver satellite broadband services in regional areas, in a move widely seen as a challenge to the NBN’s rival Sky Muster service.
Optus marketing and revenue managing director Matt Williams said the partnership with Starlink would help it reach the 60 per cent of Australia currently without mobile phone coverage.
An SMS message service would launch in 2024, he said, followed by voice calls and mobile internet access in late-2025.
“This is a truly innovative model for Australia – connecting satellites to standard mobile phones – and a significant evolution beyond the services SpaceX has provided in Australia to date,” he said.
“This partnership builds on our proud history of satellite innovation in Australia.”
Customers would be able to connect to the satellite service using “most existing 4G-capable mobile handsets,” Mr Williams told AAP.
Compatible handsets and prices will be announced closer to its launch date.
SpaceX satellite engineering senior director Sara Spangelo said the company was excited to “help keep customers connected regardless of where they live or travel”.
Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said the deal was unlikely to deliver a service to rival 5G connections for speed or reliability but could help customers overlooked by communication providers.
“It won’t be a major threat to Telstra’s dominance but there’s a lot of land mass in Australia so this is likely to be a positive thing for those who are under-serviced,” he said.
“Starlink is not really designed for use in metropolitan areas.”
Optus and Starlink’s satellite service will be the second time the technology has been used to connect directly to mobile phones in Australia after Apple activated its Emergency SOS feature in the country in May.
Apple’s service lets users send text messages to emergency services using Globalstar’s 48 low-Earth orbit satellites.
Australian Associated Press
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