IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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One NZ and SpaceX launch 'direct to cell' satellites for global coverage
Thu, 4th Jan 2024

In a new development, One NZ in partnership with SpaceX has successfully launched its first six "direct to cell" satellites. It is an advancement that promises unprecedented telecommunication coverage from late 2024. Furthermore, One NZ will also join a global alliance of telcos, offering reciprocal satellite roaming to its customers.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the six Starlink satellites lifted off from the Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on Tuesday, 2nd January.

The satellites were loaded with custom silicon phased arrays, enabling them to communicate directly with most contemporary smartphones on the ground. Live testing of this pioneering technology is scheduled to be carried out in New Zealand next year.

Jason Paris, CEO of One NZ, defines this venture as a "hugely exciting milestone" offering "coverage like never before". He emphasises that this accomplishment "represents years of innovation from SpaceX that will directly benefit all New Zealanders".

Notably, the coverage from SpaceX will supplement One NZ's existing 4G and 5G mobile networks, which have previously won the Best in Test mobile network award by umlaut, a part of Accenture, for two consecutive years.

In another significant announcement, One NZ disclosed that it will be joining a global alliance of telecommunications companies, to ensure its customers stay connected via satellite when travelling to partner countries.

Elaborating on this, Paris stated, "We're delighted to be partnering with global telcos in the USA, Australia and beyond, to provide satellite coverage when roaming... this means we'll have you covered at home or when you're travelling."

The roaming scheme is intended to be operational across the USA (T-Mobile), Australia (Optus), Canada (Rogers), Japan (KDDI), and Switzerland (Salt). Additional telecom partners are expected to join the alliance before the service launch.

One NZ is convinced that this collaboration with SpaceX will contribute significantly to the safety and resilience of New Zealanders. "With the increase in climate change-related impacts to our network, we're delighted to be adding this layer of resilience for our customers," stated Paris.

He reflected on the utility of satellite backups witnessed when Starlink provided backhaul and connectivity during Cyclone Gabrielle in February.

This major leap is set to keep One NZ’s customers connected, whether they are travelling globally or exploring New Zealand's spectacular natural beauty.

"Whether you're travelling the world, or exploring our incredible natural environment at home, if you're with One NZ, you'll have the ability to connect with loved ones," Paris concluded.

This strategic alliance between One NZ and SpaceX has taken a notable stride towards future-proofing communication infrastructure, promising extended coverage and robust connectivity to Kiwi explorers around the globe, the company said in a statement.