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AST SpaceMobile makes historic space-to-mobile 5G call

AST SpaceMobile says that on September 8 it made the first 5G satellite-to-mobile call. AST engineers placed the call from Maui, Hawaii, to a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain, using AT&T spectrum and AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite.

Nokia is also a partner with AST Space Mobile, supplying equipment from its AirScale portfolio, including its AirScale base stations powered by the latest generation of its ReefShark chipsets.

The September 5G call used a regular, unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone. The call was made near the town of Hana on Maui, in a wireless dead zone. In a separate test, the company achieved a 5G cellular broadband data session with a download rate of approximately 14 Mbps.

The test demonstrated space-based 5G Release 16 connectivity.

Although this call used the BlueWalker 3 test satellite, AST plans to launch the first of five commercial satellites in the first quarter of 2024.

The satellite-to-mobile 5G call followed closely on the heels of successful 4G testing with AT&T, Vodafone and Rakuten in which the company has tested 4G space-to-mobile voice and video calls.

"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,” stated Abel Avellan, CEO of AST SpaceMobile.

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.”

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.”

AST SpaceMobile’s low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are huge, and it builds them at its facilities in Midland, Texas, which collectively span 185,000 square feet.

The satellite company 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.

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