The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is starting to set up the legal framework that would let companies provide satellite service directly to cell phones, like SpaceX, T-Mobile, AST Spacemobile, and Lynk are trying to do. Today it adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that lays out how companies would get the appropriate licenses, what spectrum they’d be able to use, and a “clear and transparent processes” for the regulator to support their efforts.
The main focus of the proposal is the satellite companies that are planning on working with existing cell carriers, and using parts of the spectrum traditionally reserved for standards like 5G. The benefit to this approach is that it allows phones to talk to satellites without the need for any additional hardware — T-Mobile has already promised that it’ll be using SpaceX’s satellites to let people text from areas where there isn’t any coverage.
The FCC’s vision for the future is ambitious. It’s hoping for a “single network future,” according to a statement from chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, where devices will bounce between using signals from cell towers and satellites without the user noticing. “We won’t need to think about what network, where, and what services are available. Connections will just work everywhere, all the time,” she says.