Starlink Direct to Cell

SpaceX’s new initiative “Starlink Direct to Cell.” 

  • SpaceX has launched a new feature for their Starlink satellites called Direct to Cell.
  • This allows users to connect their cell phones directly to Starlink satellites, essentially turning satellites into mobile cell towers.
  • T-Mobile and SpaceX had planned a partnership to bring this to life, but the initial timeline got delayed.
  • There’s a new section on Starlink’s website under the business tab for “Direct to Cell”.
  • Features of Starlink Direct to Cell:
    • Ubiquitous coverage: It will provide access for texting, calling, and browsing anywhere on land, lakes, or coastal waters.
    • Direct to Cell will also be capable of connecting IoT devices.
    • No additional equipment is required: it works with existing LTE phones without the need for any hardware or software changes.
  • A unique point to note is that the service can be used on land and on water bodies like lakes or coastal waters, but not at sea.
  • Text service is expected to start in 2024, with voice and IoT services coming in 2025.
  • The satellite acts like a cell tower in space using an advanced eODB modem. This allows network integration similar to standard roaming partners.
  • The technology promises to eliminate connectivity dead zones in remote regions.
  • SpaceX will launch these specific satellites on their Falcon 9 rockets initially and then with Starship. Once in orbit, the satellites will connect through laser backhaul to the Starlink constellation, ensuring global connectivity.
  • Several global partners are involved, including T-Mobile US, Rogers Canada, KDDI in Japan, Optus in Australia, 1nz in New Zealand, and Salt in Switzerland.
  • The system works by connecting an unmodified cell phone to a satellite, which then communicates with other satellites, ultimately connecting to the Starlink ground network and then to the partner operating network.
  • To successfully utilize this service, the user’s cell phone needs a clear view of the sky, indicating that it might not work indoors or in densely built areas.

This is an exciting development in the telecommunications sector, aiming to provide ubiquitous connectivity without relying on traditional cell towers.

But…………

Here are potential concerns and unintended consequences:

  1. Increased Exposure: One of the primary concerns with space-based cellular systems is the consistent and ubiquitous exposure to RFR. Unlike terrestrial cell towers where one might move out of range or have intermittent exposure, space-based systems could provide more constant coverage, and therefore, potentially constant exposure.
  2. Intensity and Power: The power and intensity of the radiation from space-based systems might differ from traditional towers. If they operate at higher intensities to ensure consistent connection through the atmosphere, this could alter the exposure dynamics.
  3. Insufficient Safety Guidelines: The FCC’s cell phone safety guidelines are outdated. If they are still primarily based on thermal effects, they will not account for the non-thermal biological effects that newer research is suggesting as a hazard.
  4. Lack of Escape: For those concerned about RFR exposure, it’s already challenging to avoid given the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, cell service, and other wireless technologies. Adding space-based systems could make it near impossible to find places free from RFR exposure.
  5. Environmental Impact: While this isn’t directly related to human health, launching more satellites and systems into space has environmental and astronomical consequences. Space debris, light pollution, and the energy consumption of such projects could have unintended negative effects on the environment.
  6. Potential Synergistic Effects: The combined exposure from terrestrial and space-based systems, Wi-Fi, and other sources of RFR might have effects that are not yet understood. It’s one thing to study the impact of one source of RFR, but the combined effect of multiple sources could be different.
  7. Long-term Consequences: The studies have focused on the impacts of 2G and 3G technologies LTE Bands. As we move towards 5G and beyond, the frequencies and characteristics of RFR will change. The long-term health implications of these newer technologies need to be under investigation.

A plan to reduce RFR exposure should be clear in any space-based network!  Two studies on the frequencies used for the proposed connectivity make it clear there is reason to be concerned. 

  1. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) Study:
    • Conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
    • Exposed rats to cell phone radiation.
    • 1 in 12 male rats developed malignant or pre-cancerous lesions, primarily in the brain and heart. This is a 7.69% probability.
    • The study found a dose-response relationship, indicating the higher the dose, the greater the risk.
    • The radiation levels in the study were below the current regulatory limits for human exposure, raising questions about safety limits.
    • Critics question the direct relevance to human health since the study was on rats, but supporters argue for caution given the potential risks.
    • The study observed higher tumor incidence in male rats than female ones, which parallels higher brain tumor rates in human males than females.
    • There are acknowledged limitations since the study was on rats and at high exposure levels not typical for most humans.
  2. The Ramazzini Institute Study:
    • Conducted in Italy, it mirrored the NTP study in the US.
    • Rats were exposed to cell phone radiation levels of 0.1, 1, and 10 watts per kilogram of body weight for 18 hours daily, starting in-utero.
    • The highest radiation level in this study was still below the human legal limit.
    • Results indicated that rats at the highest radiation level had a significant risk of developing heart and brain cancer, with gender-specific risks.
    • The findings from this study supported the NTP results, suggesting that cell phone radiation might be linked to certain types of cancer.

Jimmy Gonzalez’s Case:

    • Jimmy Gonzalez, who unfortunately passed away from brain and heart cancer, had claimed that his cancer was due to cell phone radiation.
    • The tumors observed in the rats were similar to Gonzalez’s, providing anecdotal support to the studies’ results.

Recommendations:

    • More research is needed to solidify these claims.
    • People should adopt precautionary measures like using hands-free devices, limiting phone usage, and keeping phones away from their bodies.

In essence, there’s growing evidence from animal studies suggesting a potential link between cell phone radiation and certain cancers. While direct extrapolation to humans has its limitations, it underscores the importance of continued research and taking precautions.

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