Maybe, maybe not. The jury is still out on this one, but it does seem like Starlink might try to replace cell towers.

What would need to change for Starlink to replace cell towers?

Satellite phones, or satphones certainly exist, but right now they might remind you of a cell phone from the 90s. They are much bulkier and require a large antenna to receive the signal from a satellite. This presents a large hurdle to making them popular enough to be embraced by the public any time soon. But currently available satphones were designed to communicate with satellites in geo-stationary orbit.

The satellites that Starlink has launched, and continues to launch, are low orbit satellites. These satellites are much closer to the earth, which is why Starlink can offer customers internet with a comparable latency to ground based providers. If satphones were designed with these satellites in mind, could they be made smaller? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean people would make the switch.

Starlink may be planning to offer telephone services

A filling with FCC indicates that Starlink may plan to offer a dedicated phone service. If they can make it convenient and affordable, there’s a chance it could become popular enough to eliminate the need for cell towers. The trends and habits of people are hard to predict though. If switching to a satellite phone doesn’t give enough advantages over traditional cell phones, it may not become popular with enough people to supplant cell towers.

Don’t expect cell towers to come down any time soon

Even if satellite phones replaced cell phones in the future, Starlink still has thousands of satellites to get into orbit before it has the potential to begin offering a telephone service. If they do offer the service, it could still be many years before it was adopted by enough people to threaten cell phone usage. And if cell towers did become obsolete, it could still be a long time before they were taken down or repurposed. Change sometimes comes more quickly than expected, though. So you should probably wait to place any bets on this one.

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