AST Science

AST unveils $462m funding plan for first phase of space-based network

18 December 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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The first space-based network to connect directly to 4G and 5G smartphones has received a multi-million-dollar funding boost for the first phase of its commercial launch.

Pioneered by AST SpaceMobile in partnership with Vodafone Group, once live in 2023 the network will connect 1.6 billion people across 49 of the largest countries in the world's equatorial regions.

To support its phase one commercial launch, AST SpaceMobile said it has secured "up to US$462 million in gross proceeds in additional financing".

The funds comprise a $232 million cash investment from New Providence Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: NPA, NPAUU and NPAWW) and, through a business combination agreement with NPA, AST will become a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange, trading under the symbol ASTS.

The $230 million balance of the investment will come from a common stock PIPE at $10.00 per share,  including investments from Rakuten, Vodafone, American Tower, UBS O'Connor and "a broad base of financial institutions".

AST said all SpaceMobile shareholders are retaining 100% of their equity in the combined company. The cash proceeds are expected to be used to fund phase one of the commercial launch of AST SpaceMobile’s space assets.

“We are thrilled to move forward in executing on phase one of our commercial launch in conjunction with Vodafone,” said Abel Avellan, chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile.

“Our high-speed, low latency platform represents the world’s first venture aimed at massively closing the digital divide by bringing affordable and accessible connectivity to the regions that need it most. We believe our game-changing solution will serve to drive universal and global connectivity, allowing societies to utilise digital technology to gain greater access to knowledge and information.”

SpaceMobile will utilise 20 satellites to initially cover areas north and south of the equator. The territories include rural and remote areas of a number of markets where Vodafone plans to integrate the technology for services provided by its Vodacom, Safaricom and Vodafone brands.

Subject to regulatory approvals in each market, these will include DRC; Ghana; Mozambique; Kenya; and Tanzania. AST SpaceMobile will also apply for regulatory approval to launch the service in India.

Shameel Joosub, the CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Providing affordable mobile coverage for everyone requires a blend of technologies and infrastructure, from traditional masts to small cells, balloons and satellites at the edge of space.

"While we have been adding deep rural network sites to connect remote communities without any coverage, the lack of power in some areas creates insurmountable obstacles. AST SpaceMobile will ensure that remote communities in many sub-Saharan African countries can have access to the latest digital services.”