Optus and Elon Musk’s Starlink to Offer Mobile Connectivity via Satellite

Optus and Elon Musk’s Starlink to Offer Mobile Connectivity via Satellite

Merely a week ago, Telstra announced it was joining forces with Elon Musk’s Starlink to offer broadband and voice services via satellite tech for customers in rural and remote areas of Australia. Well today, I thought I could copy+paste that Starlink deal article, changing merely ‘Telstra’ to ‘Optus’ ….but on closer inspection, it’s quite different.

The deal between Optus and SpaceX’s Starlink will see the former deliver mobile connectivity using the latter’s satellite constellation. It seems that this will be direct to mobile, meaning a customer can use their existing 4G phone. And Optus are the only telco in Aus doing that.

Optus is selling this as: “Together, Optus and SpaceX plan to cover 100 per cent of Australia”. That comes with a little asterisk, though. The 100 per cent excludes the “Australian Radio Quiet Zone” in Western Australia where no service is permitted to be provided and Remote Offshore Territories and Islands of Australia. Coverage also requires a clear line of sight to most of the sky.

Anyway, Optus managing director of marketing and revenue Matt Williams said currently, the telco provides mobile coverage to 98.5 per cent of Australia’s population through its existing network, the addition of Starlink will make up the rest.

“Australia’s vastness and terrain can make it difficult for any operator to provide mobile coverage everywhere it is needed – especially in remote or hard-to-reach locations,” he added in a press release.

“Our work with SpaceX aims to bring the coverage capabilities of satellites direct to compatible mobile handsets without the need for customers to buy additional equipment.  This partnership builds on our proud history of satellite innovation in Australia.”

So yeah, this is a little different to what Telstra announced, with the Optus Starlink deal covering mobile connectivity. Telstra is using the Musk company’s satellite tech for broadband.

While the Optus-Starlink satellite-to-phone service will be live soon after it undergoes testing, there’s no pricing or confirmed launch date as yet, but Optus has pencilled in late 2024 for the rollout of SMS, with voice and data from late 2025. Telstra should go live before the end of this year with its operations. We’ll update this article once we learn more.

This article has been updated since it was first published.

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