You won’t need to upgrade your existing phone in order to use Starlink over T-Mobile, although it’s more about new T-Mobile cell tower deployment than it is your phone being able to be picked up in space.
TL;DR – satellite backed mini towers will bring coverage to significantly more people.
Currently for your device to get onto the internet when you’re not on Wi-Fi you connect to a cell tower. That cell tower has fiber-optic cable buried or poled running to a central office location, that CO runs somewhere else, plugs into the internet and is taped there with a sticky note attached saying “don’t disconnect.” All the internet depends on people honoring the sticky note.
Trenching or poling power and fiber from a cell tower is quite an expense, and it’s one of the reasons your favorite nature spot has really bad coverage. If you’re out in the middle of the country or on a mountain, chances are the cost to get a good tower up there is prohibitive. Power lines, miles and miles of fiber and poles, a handful of customers, and just the continued expense of maintaining these make it a no-win situation for anyone.
But the idea here is to make specialized towers to deploy in dead zones that don’t need the miles and miles of fiber optic cabling. They can just talk to Starlink for back end data. This eliminates one expense, and it’s reasonable to assume that in these scenarios a solar panel operation could probably power a low use cell tower.
With an active cell tower pulling 120kWh per day (more for 5g I am reading, but we’re going with that) and 85 cents per watt on solar panels, and assuming no neat power saving technology with 5G (there’s neat power saving technology and these probably will use significantly less power due to low use deployment,) these Starlink backed towers could power themselves forever for $102K (standard electrical payoff would be 15 years.)
I highly suspect that these micro low use sites that cost would be significantly less as the standard towers are working for thousands, and these will be Bob and Jan driving through the valley every other Thursday.
Initially T-Mobile’s deployment of these dead zone sites is planned to only support text and messaging apps (and probably emergency services.) So extremely limited data connections on initial deployment followed by voice and data coverage. The claim is text, SMS, MMS and participating messaging apps initially. This before voice and data.
The takeaway here is dead zones that probably never would, will now have some coverage, and you won’t need a new phone.[T-Mobile]