AST SpaceMobile, a cellular satellite company backed by AT&T, has successfully made the “first ever” 5G connection between an unmodified smartphone and a satellite in space. The test was conducted using a Galaxy S22 on September 8th, 2023. The call was made from a wireless dead zone in Maui, Hawaii to a recipient in Madrid, Spain. AST SpaceMobile utilized its low Earth orbit test satellite, BlueWalker 3 (BW3), and AT&T’s 5G spectrum to establish the cell signal. Vodafone, Nokia, and AT&T all confirmed the validity of this milestone.
This achievement follows several previous tests. In April, SpaceMobile routed its first space-based phone call on AT&T’s 2G network. A subsequent test successfully sent a 4G LTE signal from space, which an ordinary phone was able to receive, boasting download speeds of 10Mbps. However, AST SpaceMobile claims to have surpassed this record, achieving a download speed of approximately 14Mbps in a separate test.
Abel Avellan, CEO of AST SpaceMobile, declared this achievement to be a significant technological advancement that revolutionizes access to information. He emphasized that their compatibility now extends to phones from all major manufacturers, supporting 2G, 4G LTE, and now 5G technologies.
While Apple has introduced emergency texting via satellite with the iPhone 14 and T-Mobile is working on satellite connectivity through SpaceX’s Starlink, AST SpaceMobile aims to advance the capabilities of space-based phone calls by leveraging the speed of 5G. The company plans to launch five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of next year.
Note: The article previously erroneously stated that the iPhone 14 is capable of satellite calls, when it can only send texts via satellite. We apologize for the mistake.