A new deal with AST SpaceMobile means AT&T is one step closer toward offering satellite-based internet through its customers’ smartphones.
As SpaceNews reports(Opens in a new window), AT&T will lease radio spectrum to AST SpaceMobile so it can beam satellite-based internet to customers, without any modification to their cell phones.
AST made headlines last year for launching a huge prototype satellite built with the largest communications array in history. The so-called BlueWalker 3 test satellite is essentially designed to act as a cell tower in space with the goal of delivering 4G/5G speeds to consumers on Earth.
Last month, AST made its first-ever voice call from Texas to Japan through the BlueWalker 3 satellite, which tapped the same radio frequencies as AT&T’s cell network—the 850MHz spectrum—using an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22.
BlueWalker 3 test satellite (Credit: AST SpaceMobile)
Pending FCC approval, AT&T now wants to lease certain 850MHz and 700MHz spectrum to AST, according to a regulatory filing(Opens in a new window). The aim is to provide “supplemental coverage” through the satellite broadband, including for emergency purposes, such as during a disaster.
The same satellite broadband also promises to help AT&T connect consumers in “unserved and underserved areas,” without causing interference with other cellular networks. “Because AST’s technology can focus satellite coverage in discrete portions of licensed areas, it does not need a nationwide swath of terrestrial mobile spectrum that a mobile network operator licensee has left fallow,” the carrier added.
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There’s no word on when AT&T plans on offering the satellite-based service to consumers. But AST has said it expects to launch five “BlueBird” satellites in Q1 2024 to provide space-based broadband in select markets.
AST is also testing its satellite technology with other cellular providers, including Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, and Orange. But the companies will face competition from T-Mobile, which is tapping SpaceX’s Starlink to deliver a similar satellite broadband feature to phones, in addition to Apple, which is already offering its own satellite-based emergency SOS system.
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The post AT&T Takes First Step Toward Offering Smartphone Satellite Service first appeared on www.pcmag.com