New Space and Tech

AST SpaceMobile Achieves Space-Based 5G Cellular Broadband Connectivity From Everyday Smartphones

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
AST SpaceMobile
September 20, 2023
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AST SpaceMobile Achieves Space-Based 5G Cellular Broadband Connectivity From Everyday Smartphones
BlueWalker 3 on the ground at our Midland, Texas facility prior to launch, and in space
AST SpaceMobile

AST SpaceMobile, Inc. (“AST SpaceMobile”) (NASDAQ: ASTS), the company building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones, today announced another unprecedented leap in telecommunications by successfully making the first-ever 5G connection for voice and data between an everyday, unmodified smartphone and a satellite in space.

Company engineers demonstrated space-based 5G connectivity by placing a call from Maui, Hawaii, USA, to a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain, using AT&T spectrum and AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite — the largest-ever commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit. Fifth-generation or 5G mobile networking is the fastest, most efficient, highest-throughput, lowest-latency, and flexible wireless standard ever released by the 3GPP consortium.

The 5G call was placed on September 8, 2023, from an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone located near Hana, HI, in a wireless dead zone. 5G connectivity testing was completed with our partners Vodafone, AT&T and Nokia. In a separate test, the company broke its previous space-based cellular broadband data session record by achieving a download rate of approximately 14 Mbps.

These historic accomplishments follow AST SpaceMobile’s April announcement that the company had completed the first-ever space-based voice calls using everyday unmodified smartphones. In June, AST SpaceMobile announced that the satellite reached initial download speeds above 10 Mbps. The company’s comprehensive testing program with its partners has continued since June, including additional voice calls, 4G video calls and now 5G cellular broadband connections. These speeds, beyond supporting basic voice and text, also enable browsing the internet, downloading files, using messaging apps, streaming video, and more on everyday smartphones.

“Once again, we have achieved a significant technological advancement that represents a paradigm shift in access to information. Since the launch of BlueWalker 3, we have achieved full compatibility with phones made by all major manufacturers and support for 2G, 4G LTE, and now 5G,” said Abel Avellan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AST SpaceMobile. “Making the first successful 5G cellular broadband connections from space directly to mobile phones is yet another significant advancement in telecommunications AST SpaceMobile has pioneered. We are more confident than ever that space-based cellular broadband can help transform internet connectivity across the globe by filling in gaps and connecting the unconnected.”

A video memorializing the 5G connection and other testing milestones using BlueWalker 3 can be viewed here.

Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group Chief Executive, said: “Vodafone is striving to close the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa. By making the world’s first space-based 5G call to Europe, we have taken another important step in realizing that ambition. We’re excited to be at the forefront of space technology through our partnership with AST SpaceMobile.”

Chris Sambar, Head of AT&T Network, said: “These moments are extraordinary milestones in telecommunications history. These first-of-a-kind innovations would not be possible without ecosystem-wide collaboration. We’re all working together to achieve the shared vision of space-based connectivity for consumers, businesses and first responders all around the globe.”

Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “We congratulate AST SpaceMobile on their latest incredible achievement in completing a 5G voice call from space. While we are of course proud that our AirScale portfolio is playing a key role in underpinning these networks, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture that space-based cellular broadband can provide crucial connectivity to underserved communities around the world. At Nokia, we believe that everyone should have access to universal broadband services, and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with AST SpaceMobile on this game-changing initiative.”

AST SpaceMobile has more than 2,600 patent and patent-pending claims for its technology and built state-of-the-art facilities in Midland, Texas, which collectively span 185,000 square feet. AST SpaceMobile also has agreements and understandings with more than 40 mobile network operators globally, which have approximately 2.4 billion existing subscribers total, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, Orange, Telefonica, TIM, MTN, Saudi Telecom Company, Zain KSA, Etisalat, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Telkomsel, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Millicom, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telstra, Africell, Liberty Latin America and others. Vodafone, Rakuten, American Tower, Samsung NEXT and Bell Canada are also investors in AST SpaceMobile.

This continuing series of historic achievements is part of AST SpaceMobile’s path toward its goal of launching five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of 2024 and its continued efforts to push the boundaries of what is possible in telecommunications. The company is currently building BlueBird satellites at its facility in Midland, Texas.

About AST SpaceMobile

AST SpaceMobile is building the first and only global cellular broadband network in space to operate directly with standard, unmodified mobile devices based on our extensive IP and patent portfolio. Our engineers and space scientists are on a mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers and finally bring broadband to the billions who remain unconnected. For more information, follow AST SpaceMobile on YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn and Facebook. Watch this video for an overview of the SpaceMobile mission.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.