In a huge development, Optus, in collaboration with SpaceX, which designs, manufactures and launches some of the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft, today announced an agreement to deliver mobile connectivity using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.
Together, Optus and SpaceX plan to cover 100% of Australia. It does come with a caveat, which is the exclusion Australian Radio Quiet Zone in Western Australia where no service is permitted to be provided and Remote Offshore Territories and Islands of Australia.
Optus’ collaboration with SpaceX aims to provide regional Australia with a new way to connect starting in late 2024. The plan is to roll out SMS from late 2024, with voice and data also on the horizon from late 2025.
Optus’ Managing Director, Marketing and Revenue, Matt Williams, said, “Optus has always thought differently about what it means to deliver connectivity to our customers, and today we proudly provide mobile coverage to 98.5% of Australia’s population through our existing network.
“However, 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.
“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.”
Through its agreement with SpaceX, Optus will work to expand the reach of customers’ mobile connectivity to include the 60% of Australia’s land mass that currently has no mobile coverage. This will be achieved through a phased rollout of SpaceX’s satellite capability, starting with SMS in late 2024, with voice and data to follow in late 2025.
SpaceX’s Senior Director of Satellite Engineering, Sara Spangelo, said, “We share Optus’ vision to improve connectivity across Australia. The connectivity pairs SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation with Optus’ mobile network to transmit directly to mobile phones across the country.
“We’re excited to collaborate with Optus and offer a solution to expand coverage and help keep customers connected regardless of where they live or travel,” added Dr. Spangelo.
This new satellite-to-phone coverage will be extensively tested before launch, with further information on its characteristics and accessibility provided closer to availability.