Optus has announced a partnership with SpaceX and Starlink with the ambitious goal to provide voice and data coverage to 100 per cent of Australia by 2025.
The announcement comes just a week after Telstra announced its deal with Starlink with Optus aiming to provide regional Australians with connectivity via the LEO (low earth orbit) satellite system in 2024.
But for Optus it doesn’t end there. The company has also set a bold road map with 100 per cent coverage to the entire landmass rather than just where the Australian population lives.
The Optus network is currently within reach of 98.5 per cent of Australians but more than 60 per cent of our vast continent has no cellular coverage.
By the end of 2024, Optus customers will be able to send text messages via the Starlink satellites and voice calls and data in late 2025 from anywhere in Australia with compatible smartphones.
“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 per cent of Australia’s population through our existing network,” says Optus’ Managing Director, Marketing and Revenue, Matt Williams.
“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.”
Satellite to phone coverage will rely on the major smartphone manufacturers Samsung, Apple and Google incorporating the radios into their future devices.
Apple last year offered Emergency SOS via satellite with the iPhone 14 which allows the user to send a text message outside of cellular coverage.
Optus plans to extend that functionality to voice and data by 2025.
Optus would not have set this timeline without some sort of indication that this technology will be available in smartphones released in the near future which will extend connectivity beyond 5G to the LEO satellites.
“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,” says SpaceX’s Senior Director of Satellite Engineering, Sara Spangelo.
“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.
“This new satellite-to-phone coverage will be extensively tested before launch, with further information on its characteristics and accessibility provided closer to availability.”