Earlier this year, an unprecedented achievement was accomplished when AST SpaceMobile, in partnership with AT&T, successfully linked a regular Samsung Galaxy S22 with a low-Earth orbit satellite, thereby completing a two-way voice call. This event signaled a significant breakthrough in the realm of satellite-based cellular communication. The company now asserts it’s inching closer to offering this technology to the public.
AST recently announced that it carried out several tests in Hawaii, where its engineers recorded download speeds of 10Mbps from their BlueWalker 3 satellite to regular, unmodified phones on the ground. “Attaining double-digit download speeds in the satellite-to-smartphone test marks an essential step towards our goal of ensuring nationwide connectivity, irrespective of one’s location,” stated Chris Sambar, head of AT&T’s network.
Moving forward, AST plans to connect a phone to the BW3 using a 5G signal. Last September, a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the prototype satellite to low-Earth orbit. With an antenna spanning 693 square feet, BW3 boasts the most extensive antenna among all commercial satellites to date. Its brightness in the night sky, however, poses challenges for astronomical research.
AT&T joins a handful of US carriers seeking to use satellites to extend their services to underprivileged rural communities. In 2021, Verizon formed a partnership with Amazon to utilize its Project Kuiper satellite network for wireless access. More recently, T-Mobile expressed its intention to collaborate with SpaceX for testing Starlink-compatible devices. Similar to AT&T, this carrier maintains that existing phones should be compatible with its satellite service.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Satellite-based Cellular Communication
What achievement was accomplished by AST SpaceMobile and AT&T earlier this year?
AST SpaceMobile, in collaboration with AT&T, succeeded in connecting a regular Samsung Galaxy S22 to a satellite in low-Earth orbit, thereby completing a two-way voice call. This marked a significant milestone in satellite-based cellular communication.
What were the results of the recent tests conducted by AST in Hawaii?
In these tests, engineers were able to achieve download speeds of 10Mbps from the company’s BlueWalker 3 satellite to unmodified phones on the ground. This marked progress in their goal of ensuring nationwide connectivity.
What is the next step for AST SpaceMobile?
AST SpaceMobile plans to connect a phone to the BlueWalker 3 satellite using a 5G signal. This satellite was launched into low-Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 in September.
How is AT&T involved in extending services to underserved rural communities?
AT&T is among several US carriers aiming to use satellites to extend their services to rural communities that are currently under-served. This involves the use of existing phones with their satellite service.
Which other US carriers are also looking to use satellites to service rural communities?
Other carriers include Verizon, who in 2021, partnered with Amazon to use its Project Kuiper satellite network for wireless access. More recently, T-Mobile announced it would work with SpaceX to test Starlink-capable devices.