News

AST satellite company deploys array ready for wholesale trials

AST Spacemobile array.jpg

Satellite company AST SpaceMobile has successfully spread out its giant communications array for its test satellite, BlueWalker 3, which was launched in September.

At 64 sq metres the array (pictured) doubles as a solar panel on one side and a precisely targeted set of mobile antennas on the other.

Abel Avellan, chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said: “The successful unfolding of BlueWalker 3 is a major step forward for our patented space-based cellular broadband technology and paves the way for the ongoing production of our BlueBird satellites.”

AST SpaceMobile, which is worth US$1.74 billion on Nasdaq, aims to be a wholesale operation, working with mobile operators such as AT&T, MTN and Vodafone.

AT&T’s network president, Chris Sambar, said: “Working with AST SpaceMobile, we believe there is a future opportunity to even further extend our network reach including to otherwise remote and off-grid locations.”

Bluewalker 3 is designed to communicate directly with cellular devices via 3GPP standard frequencies at 5G speeds. One satellite is expected to have a field of view of over 777,000 sq km on the surface of the Earth.

The company lists its mobile network operator partners as Africell, AT&T, Bell Canada, Etisalat, Globe Telecom, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Millicom, MTN Group, Orange, Rakuten Mobile, Smart Communications, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telefónica, Telstra, Vodafone Group, Liberty Latin America “and others”.

Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony, who is also an AST SpaceMobile director, said the company plans to test the satellite service on its cloud-native network in Japan. It is also “working with AST SpaceMobile on integrating our virtualized radio network technology to help bring connectivity to the world”, said Amin.

Vodafone head of group R&D, Luke Ibbetson, also an AST SpaceMobile director, said: “We want to close coverage gaps in our markets, particularly in territories where terrain makes it extremely challenging to reach with a traditional ground-based network.”