AST SpaceMobile Inc. said it completed a 5G call between Hawaii and Spain using a smart phone and the company’s satellite, and claimed a first in the race to serve places where wireless networks don’t reach.
(Bloomberg) — AST SpaceMobile Inc. said it completed a 5G call between Hawaii and Spain using a smart phone and the company’s satellite, and claimed a first in the race to serve places where wireless networks don’t reach.
The phone used in the call had “no app, no special SIM cards, nothing special. It’s the phone exactly like you have in your pocket,” SpaceMobile Chairman Abel Avellan said in an interview.
Companies are vying to offer service when the world’s estimated 5 billion mobile phones stray outside cell coverage areas.
The new services aim to offer connections using normal consumer mobile phones, rather than specialized equipment. Companies moving toward that goal include T-Mobile US Inc., which has a partnership with Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Inc., as well as Lynk Global Inc., which says it is sending and receiving text messages to and from space via standard unmodified mobile devices.
AST SpaceMobile said it placed a call on Sept. 8 from a wireless dead zone near Hana, Hawaii, to a Vodafone Group PLC engineer in Madrid, AST SpaceMobile said in a news release. The call used AT&T Inc. frequencies and SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite. Separately, the equipment achieved a download rate of about 14 megabits per second, according to the company based in Midland, Texas.
“With this, we have demonstrated the ability to put 5G in every corner of the planet,” Avellan said.
5G, or the fifth generation of mobile telephony, describes a suite of technologies that is coming into wide use following the 4G service that connects many phones today. 5G service is often envisioned as fast, far exceeding the US definition of broadband of 25 megabits per second. Avellan said AST SpaceMobile is limited by a small set of test frequencies and can achieve greater speeds with a broader swath of airwaves.
SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite is the forerunner of a planned globe-circling fleet.
Chris Sambar, head of network at AT&T, likened the technology to putting a cell tower in space.
“I’m pretty confident that at some point here in the not-too-distant future we’re going to have 5G wherever we want it, as long as you can see a satellite,” Sambar said in an interview.
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