Optus aims for 100% coverage using SpaceX satellites

Optus and SpaceX Starlink partnership
Source: Starlink

Australian telcos’ love affair with the Elon Musk-led SpaceX satellite company continues, with Optus recently announcing a new partnership with the aim of providing complete mobile network coverage of Australia.

Currently, Optus’ mobile coverage reaches 98.5% of the Australian population via its existing infrastructure. By tapping into SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, the local telco hopes to increase this figure to 100% of Aussies where mobile services are permitted. Like Telstra’s recently-announced Starlink partnership, the move is aimed at giving regional Australians more connectivity options.

It won’t happen overnight, however. According to the official announcement, the Optus and SpaceX collaboration will lead to satellite-based SMS functionality from late 2024. Voice and data features aren’t expected until at least late 2025.

Optus and SpaceX deal details

One of the main objectives of the new partnership is to service areas with no existing mobile coverage. According to Optus, it’s working with SpaceX to reach the 60% of the nation’s land mass not currently reached by existing networks.

As mentioned by Matt Williams, Optus’ Managing Director, Marketing and Revenue, “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,” Williams said. “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.”

Off the back of Williams’ comments, Dr Sara Spangelo, SpaceX’s Senior Director of Satellite Engineering, added that improving Australia’s mobile connectivity is a focus for the company.

“The connectivity pairs SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation with Optus’ mobile network to transmit directly to mobile phones across the country,” Dr Spangelo said. “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.”

It’s been a busy period for Australian telcos, with Optus claiming victory following the Australian Competition Tribunal’s decision to prevent Telstra and TPG from network sharing. Meanwhile, Optus had a recent drama of its own, reaching a confidential settlement with Boost Mobile over alleged trademark infringements.

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