A prototype satellite developed by AST SpaceMobile has successfully delivered a download rate of 14Mbps, allowing for a high-quality video call using 4G spectrum. The test was conducted in a remote area of Maui, Hawaii, and showcased the satellite’s ability to provide internet connectivity to unmodified smartphones. 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 collaborated in facilitating the test.
AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite, which launched in November, has been instrumental in enabling space-based phone calls and broadband. Equipped with the largest communication array in low-Earth orbit, the satellite functions as a cell tower in space. Previous tests demonstrated the technology’s compatibility with different radio bands, including 4G and now 5G.
AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan expressed the company’s progress in achieving compatibility with major smartphone manufacturers and support for various network generations. However, information regarding latency and coverage limitations has not been released.
The technology holds the promise of providing easier access to the internet for users in remote areas. Beyond supporting voice and text communications, the high download speeds enable internet browsing, file downloads, messaging apps, video streaming, and more on everyday smartphones. AST SpaceMobile aims to begin offering commercial services in the near future and plans to launch five finalized “BlueBird” satellites in the first quarter of 2024 to expand the network. The company recently secured $115 million in financing through loans to support the construction of additional BlueBird satellites.