- Satellite Evolution
AST SpaceMobile deploys largest-ever commercial communications array in low Earth orbit
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
AST SpaceMobile, Inc., the company building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones, announced today that it had successfully completed deployment of the communications array for its test satellite, BlueWalker 3 (BW3), in orbit.
BW3 is the largest-ever commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit and is designed to communicate directly with cellular devices via 3GPP standard frequencies at 5G speeds. Now that it has been unfolded, the satellite spans 693 square feet in size, a design feature critical to support a space-based cellular broadband network. The satellite is expected to have a field of view of over 300,000 square miles on the surface of the Earth.
The unfolding of BW3 was made possible by years of R&D, testing and operational preparation. AST SpaceMobile has a portfolio of more than 2,400 patent and patent-pending claims supporting its space-based cellular broadband technology. Additional details on the BlueWalker 3 mission can be seen in this video.
“Every person should have the right to access cellular broadband, regardless of where they live or work. Our goal is to close the connectivity gaps that negatively impact billions of lives around the world,” said Abel Avellan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AST SpaceMobile. “The successful unfolding of BlueWalker 3 is a major step forward for our patented space-based cellular broadband technology and paves the way for the ongoing production of our BlueBird satellites.”
AST SpaceMobile has agreements and understandings with mobile network operators (“MNOs”) globally that have over 1.8 billion existing subscribers, including a mutual exclusivity with Vodafone in 24 countries. Interconnecting with AST SpaceMobile’s planned network will allow MNOs, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, MTN Group, Orange, Telefonica, Etisalat, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Millicom, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telstra, Africell, Liberty Latin America and others, the ability to offer extended cellular broadband coverage to their customers who live, work and travel in areas with poor or non-existent cell coverage, with the goal of eliminating dead zones with cellular broadband from space.
“We want to close coverage gaps in our markets, particularly in territories where terrain makes it extremely challenging to reach with a traditional ground-based network. Our partnership with AST SpaceMobile – connecting satellite directly to conventional mobile devices – will help in our efforts to close the digital divide,” said Luke Ibbetson, Head of Group R&D, Vodafone and an AST SpaceMobile director.
Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony and an AST SpaceMobile director, added “Our mission is to democratize access to mobile connectivity: That is why we are so excited about the potential of AST SpaceMobile to support disaster-readiness and meet our goal of 100% geographical coverage to our customers in Japan. I look forward not only to testing BW3 on our world-leading cloud-native network in Japan, but also working with AST SpaceMobile on integrating our virtualized radio network technology to help bring connectivity to the world.”
Chris Sambar, President – Network, AT&T, added “We’re excited to see AST SpaceMobile reach this significant milestone. AT&T’s core mission is connecting people to greater possibilities on the largest wireless network in America. Working with AST SpaceMobile, we believe there is a future opportunity to even further extend our network reach including to otherwise remote and off-grid locations.”