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Outback internet on phones closer after SpaceX launch

SpaceX on Tuesday launched a new generation of “outback internet” satellites that will soon enable Australians to access the web on their mobile from the most remote locations.

It follows Optus in July signing an agreement with subsidiary Starlink to enable SMS later this year with voice, data, and online access for devices following in 2025.

Six of the 21 satellites launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, had straight-to-mobile capability, enabling them to provide connectivity to handsets anywhere and without special modifications.

SpaceX already has agreements with a host of other international telcos from countries such as Canada, Japan, and Switzerland, but the service will still require regulatory approval before it can go live.


The move has the potential to be revolutionary for Australians living in remote and regional locations who often struggle to access the internet on their devices.

Currently, Optus’ traditional service is unavailable across 60 per cent of Australia’s landmass, but the new tie-up will boost connectivity to almost 100 per cent.

Matt Williams, the business’ current head of customer solutions, said earlier this year that the agreement would provide mobile coverage to 98.5 per cent of Australia’s population through its existing network.

“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 said.


“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.

“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. It will create a unique experience for Optus customers.”

In November, SpaceX told the US Federal Communications Commission it hopes to launch 840 direct-to-mobile satellites over the following six months.

However, engineering manager Kate Tice also admitted on a webcast that the new generation satellites would be brighter than the traditional V2 mini broadband versions.

The company has vowed to work with astronomers to review their impact and make adjustments to make them as dim as possible.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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