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Malaysia considering Direct-to-Cell Starlink services as early as 2025

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Malaysia considering Direct-to-Cell Starlink services as early as 2025

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Malaysia considering Direct-to-Cell Starlink services as early as 2025


According to Minister of Communication, Fahmi Fadzil, Malaysia is currently testing three emerging technologies which will be considered by MCMC to enhance Malaysia’s telecommunication coverage. He was answering questions during the Dewan Rakyat session on 25 March 2024.

Starlink Direct-to-Cell will use satellites as transmission towers

One of the technologies being considered is Direct-to-Cell from Starlink. This technology allows smartphones to receive telecommunication signals that are being transmitted by Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites by the company, without the need for any additional equipment. The satellite will work as a standard transmission tower from space.

The technology was first launched way back in October 2023, when SpaceX and T-Mobile collaborated for Direct-to-Cell service. The former will provide satellite coverage for T-Mobile users using the Starlink satellite fleet.

According to T-Mobile, the technology will be its way to offer communication services, especially in areas without telco coverage due to a lack of towers on the ground.

Today, over half a million square kilometres in the United States do not have sufficient telco coverage due to geographical challenges or insufficient approval to set up ground-based telco towers. Hence why companies like T-Mobile are looking to Direct-to-Cell to expand their coverage.

MCMC will consider the technology to reach 100% telco coverage in Malaysia

For Direct-to-Cell, the effectiveness of the service will depend on the direct line-of-sight between the smartphone and the sky, where the LEO satellites are positioned. The test in Malaysia will start with text messages, followed by voice calls and internet access.

The usage of satellites for two-way communications for the public is gaining traction as Apple introduced Emergency SOS via satellite with the iPhone 14, as well as Huawei’s Nova 12 which supports two-way communications using Beidou. Qualcomm did work on its LEO-based satellite communication technology, but the project was shut down the same year it was announced.

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In the meantime, you can check out the Direct to Cell page on the Starlink website yourself for more information.

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