Tim Farrar Profile picture
Aug 26 12 tweets 3 min read
Quick summary of TMUS/SpaceX announcement: proposed text/voice service is copycat of ASTS plan, i.e. using cellular spectrum. FCC has dithered for over 2 years about whether to permit that non-conforming use, to date all we have is an experimental authorization for 1 sat (1/n)
TMUS said it will use nationwide PCS spectrum: that means G block (1910-1915MHz UL/1990-95MHz DL). That wasn't part of SpaceX's July 2022 Gen2 modification application, implying any approval there will be even further delayed (2/n)
Most likely regulatory approach is making a limited experimental application (<=10 satellites?) which would be consistent with suggestion that initial trial users might have to wait up to 30 mins to send messages (3/n)
But given how many half-formed concepts were put forward, the only possible conclusion is that this was designed to pre-empt next week's Apple announcement of their own free messaging service with Globalstar. That should begin as soon as the new phone is released (4/n)
Importantly, Apple will be using existing satellite spectrum, with no need for any rule changes from the FCC. However, the service will be limited just to two-way texting - no voice calls or photos unless they invest in a new multi-billion dollar constellation (5/n)
The Feb 2022 order for 17 new satellites was a stop-gap for service continuity and it is unknown whether Apple might want to go further. Clearly Globalstar's decision to delay their refinancing also anticipated that a public announcement by Apple would make it simpler (6/n)
So will SpaceX be able to come up with a real alternative to Apple here? It seems like a tough ask to align the spectrum plan (which will have to be different outside the US), regulatory approvals and handsets/billing when Apple's been working on this for two years (7/n)
So the question then has to be asked why SpaceX wants to put more roadblocks in the way of Gen2 approval, adding to the confusion from their July 2022 2GHz modification proposal. Most plausible answer is that finishing Gen1 has to take precedence for the next 12 months (8/n)
And until Starship is ready, there's no point in launching Gen2. The question is how well demand growth holds up as Gen1 capacity doubles later this year. Indications of price cuts are a worrying sign that international demand remains weak, while US is still saturated (9/n)
Ultimately, the problem will be that if US is ~50% of global demand, network efficiency will be poor. However, Starlink Gen1 should still be capable of becoming cash flow positive and making life very hard for everyone else in the satellite industry (10/n)
Its just that at a valuation of $130B, you need to keep coming up new opportunities before it becomes clear what the limits to growth are for the existing business (11/11)
As a postscript to this, note that I'll be presenting in a particularly well timed webinar on the Challenges and Opportunities in Delivering Satellite 5G next Thursday, September 1 at 11am ET satnews.regfox.com/webinar-satell…

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More from @TMFAssociates

Nov 30, 2021
Admitting that Starlink V1 will never make a profit or have capacity to serve millions of users is quite a statement. Saying V2 is only feasible with Starship contradicts their own August submission to the FCC (and arguments since) which had two alternative launch strategies
I can’t see how the FCC can now allow Starlink to proceed with the V2 application without a revision to specify a single constellation design/launch plan. And without a rapid FAA approval for Starship launches at Boca Chica, how does Starlink move forward with V2?
Of course the reality is that 2 Starship launches per week next year is not going to happen. And we are probably a year away from having V2 FCC approval, and it will take well over a year to finish off the 4400 V1 constellation.
Read 5 tweets
Jul 20, 2021
In answer to this question, a few thoughts on direct-to-handset services. There are two issues to consider: 1) what services will be provided and 2) where the spectrum will come from. (1/n)
On the first issue, it’s clear that closing the link for low bandwidth messaging direct to a smartphone is technically feasible, since SPOT and inReach already offer two-way text messaging to small handheld devices using the Globalstar & Iridium constellations respectively (2/n)
The question marks are over the technical feasibility of the much higher bandwidth services proposed by AST. While big antennas might close the link with a higher SNR, some of the claims are unrealistic, particularly the suggestion of MIMO delivering 30Mbps indoors (3/n)
Read 13 tweets
Feb 24, 2021
What is interesting in looking at the bidding patterns is that if Verizon had been prepared to take 100-120MHz instead of 140-160MHz, the auction could have been completed with total bids of only $40B-$50B
And C&C put down a deposit of $100M but then never made a single bid. A big bluff by the cable companies. Meanwhile Ergen bid for large amounts of spectrum in top markets to push up the price until round 25
T-Mobile kept bidding in top markets. They actually wanted 40MHz of spectrum there, looks a lot like what Verizon did in CBRS.
Read 9 tweets

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