AT&T is opposing a T-Mobile and SpaceX team-up on satellite-based cellular services, and demanding the companies supply more technical details to prove the system won’t cause interference with other carriers. 

AT&T filed the opposition last week with the FCC. The US regulator is requesting public comment on whether it should permit T-Mobile to leverage SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink to beam cellular connectivity to phones on the ground. 

The technology promises to let Starlink satellites offer SMS messaging, and eventually voice and data, to T-Mobile users located in areas without limited or no cellular service. However, AT&T says the main problem is that both SpaceX and T-Mobile have provided little detail on how their satellite-based cellular service will work. 

“The commission should reject SpaceX’s request to simply take it at its word that it will not cause interference,”AT&T said in its FCC filing(Opens in a new window).

The company is mainly concerned that using Starlink satellites to cellular connectivity to T-Mobile phones across the US could disrupt existing cellular coverage—for AT&T and T-Mobile itself.  

Supplemental coverage from space (SCS) “is not a substitute for terrestrial coverage, and SCS operations that interfere with or replace existing co-channel terrestrial services would degrade service quality and reliability for American consumers and run counter to the public interest,” AT&T added. 

The company has a competitive incentive to oppose T-Mobile’s plan to tap Starlink. AT&T plans on offering a similar service, but through AST Space Mobile, which is preparing to deploy several large communication satellites capable of beaming cellular services to phones on the ground. 

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The difference is that “AT&T and AST intend to provide the demonstrations necessary to show that they will not cause interference to any authorized terrestrial systems,” AT&T says.

AT&T isn’t alone in its concerns. The Rural Wireless Association also filed(Opens in a new window) in opposition to the SpaceX/T-Mobile plan, citing the risk of the satellite-based service interfering with mobile and fixed network connectivity. Of concern: SpaceX or T-Mobile have not “provided the results of any field trials that would allow the public to analyze the potential for adjacent channel interference.”

SpaceX and T-Mobile didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But the companies could face more opposition in the coming weeks. The FCC has opened the public comment period to the proceedings until June 2.

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