WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Elon Musk has announced on Twitter that all Teslas will soon be using his space based satellite communications system to connect to the internet.
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Elon Musk has just announced that the upcoming second-generation Starlink internet satellites include cellular antennas for connections with phones from T-Mobile in the US and potentially other operators as well. And then, following on from that announcement he responded to tweets asking whether the connections will work with Tesla vehicles that currently connect to AT&T’s LTE network. And, according to Musk, the answer is an empathic “Yes!”
While he didn’t go into detail about how it will all work or how much data owners could expect to access from the connections when they’re somewhere out of reach by terrestrial cell phone towers, the move isn’t surprising because it means even more income for the world’s richest man. It also means that one day Starlink could become a major global carrier as the company signs more and more deals around the world.
The Future of Communications, by Futurist Matthew Griffin
Musk said during the event that the satellite-to-cellular coverage from Starlink will be capable of providing a 2–4Mbps link, which is shared by everyone in the satellite’s coverage area. That likely won’t be enough for some Premium Connectivity features, like livestreaming video from your car’s cameras. Still, a connection that works at all, “anywhere you have a view of the sky,” is better than no connection, potentially.
In a comment to CNN, LightShed Partners analyst Walter Piecyk pointed out that enabling access could work similarly to an MVNO like Google Fi, which uses multiple carriers as its backbone, or that Musk could change the carrier deal away from AT&T in the future.
Over the years, Tesla has scaled back the connectivity packages that come standard with its electric vehicles. As explained here, cars purchased before the end of June 2018 include Premium Connectivity at no extra charge, while cars purchased before July 20th, 2022, all include at least the Standard Connectivity package with in-car maps and navigation. Those connections are available for the lifetime of the vehicle, “excluding retrofits or upgrades required for any features or services externally supplied to the vehicle.”
Adding the Premium Connectivity subscription to a Tesla that doesn’t have it currently costs $9.99 per month or $99 annually.
The recent shutdown of AT&T’s 3G network showed how that can come into play, as older vehicles built prior to mid-2015 without an LTE capable modem may have required a $200 upgrade to stay connected.
Meanwhile, new or used electric cars purchased today from Tesla “will have Standard Connectivity for the remainder of the eight years from the first day your vehicle was delivered as new by Tesla, or the first day it is put into service, whichever comes first.”