Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
Prototype Satellite Achieves New Record in Internet Delivery Speed

A prototype satellite developed by AST SpaceMobile has achieved a new record by delivering a download rate of 14Mbps, allowing for internet connectivity on unmodified smartphones. The test involved beaming internet to a phone in a remote area of Maui, Hawaii, enabling it to conduct a video call using 4G spectrum. In another test, a Samsung Galaxy S22 handset was able to make a phone call from a “wireless dead zone” in Hawaii to Spain using AT&T’s 5G radio spectrum via the satellite. Vodafone and Nokia also participated in facilitating the test.

AST SpaceMobile has been using the BlueWalker 3 test satellite, launched in November last year, to power space-based phone calls and broadband. The satellite features the largest communication array in low-Earth orbit, allowing it to function as a cell tower in space. Earlier this year, the BlueWalker 3 satellite completed a phone call using an unspecified radio band and achieved a 10Mbps download using 4G spectrum. The recent test demonstrated compatibility with AT&T’s 5G radio spectrum.

AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan stated that the technology is now fully compatible with phones from major manufacturers, supporting 2G, 4G LTE, and 5G. While details on latency and coverage limitations have not been disclosed, the technology aims to provide easier internet access in remote areas. It enables not only basic voice and text communication but also internet browsing, file downloading, messaging apps, and video streaming on everyday smartphones.

Commercial service is expected to start next year, with plans to launch five finalized “BlueBird” satellites in the first quarter of 2024 in order to expand the network. AST SpaceMobile recently secured $115 million in financing through loans for the construction of additional BlueBird satellites.