Orange, Rakuten and Vodafone ‘to try AST satellite-based mobile’
AST SpaceMobile plans to try out its space-based mobile phone network with the launch of a test satellite in August.
If the launch from Cape Canaveral is successful, the company plans trials with Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, Orange and others.
Abel Avellan (pictured), chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile said: “The launch of BlueWalker 3 is the culmination of years of effort by our engineers to let us test connecting the phone in your pocket, with no modifications to the phone, directly with one of our satellites in space.”
The Nasdaq-listed company said its initial trials will focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
BlueWalker 3, developed by AST SpaceMobile in Texas, will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, said the company.
Avellan said: “This revolutionary technology supports our mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by more than 5 billion mobile subscribers today moving in and out of coverage, and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world’s population who remain unconnected.”
Two years ago American Tower, Japan’s Rakuten, South Korea’s Samsung and UK-based Vodafone have all invested in AST SpaceMobile. AST SpaceMobile is worth $1.16 billion on Nasdaq.
The company, which has invested US$85 million in the project, said BlueWalker 3 carries a 64 square metre phased array “that is designed to test cellular broadband communications directly with standard mobile phones, from space, for the first time”.
It added: “The BlueWalker 3 mission is expected to complete the company’s initial research and development programme and facilitate integration testing with mobile network operators including Vodafone.”