AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have taken a giant leap towards revolutionizing cellular access globally with their recent announcement. The two companies have successfully completed the first-ever two-way audio call using satellites and a standard smartphone. This achievement was made possible using the BlueWalker 3 satellite of AST SpaceMobile, and an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone. The call was made from AT&T in Midland, Texas to Ratuken in Japan.
The potential of satellite technology in addressing cellular access challenges is significant. In many areas of the US, including rural communities and national parks, cell service is limited. The use of satellites as a space-based network of cell towers could help overcome these challenges. AST SpaceMobile aims to build the world’s first and only space-based cellular broadband network, which would provide global cellular broadband from 2G to 5G.
Abel Avellan, the CEO and chairman of AST SpaceMobile, expressed his excitement over this significant milestone, saying, “Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space.” While the success of the audio call is a major milestone, AST SpaceMobile remains focused on the next steps towards transforming the way the world connects.
The initial test calls have validated the AST SpaceMobile patented system and architecture, and were completed using unmodified smartphones. Engineers from Vodafone, Rakuten, and AT&T participated in the preparation and testing of the first voice calls with BW3. The calls demonstrated the power of AST SpaceMobile’s BW3 satellite, the largest-ever commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit and is an important step to providing space-based 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and 5G cellular broadband globally.
AST SpaceMobile has over 2,600 patent and patent-pending claims for its technology and built state-of-the-art facilities in Midland, Texas that collectively span 185,000 square feet. AST SpaceMobile has agreements and understandings with mobile network operators in over 170 countries and territories, representing over 1,400 mobile network operators, to help ensure global coverage, and the company is now planning to launch 10 satellites by the end of 2023.
Despite the potential benefits of satellite technology, the cost of access remains unclear. It is yet to be seen whether satellite coverage will be included in existing plans or come at an additional cost. Nonetheless, the success of the audio call represents a significant milestone towards increasing cellular access in the US and developing countries, making the world a more connected place.