AST SpaceMobile, in collaboration with AT&T, achieved a significant breakthrough earlier this year in satellite-based cellular communication. They successfully connected a standard Samsung Galaxy S22 to a low-Earth orbit satellite, completing a two-way voice call. This achievement marked a major milestone and set the company on a path to bring this technology to consumers.
Recently, AST conducted tests in Hawaii, witnessing download speeds of 10 Mbps from their BlueWalker 3 satellite to unmodified phones on the ground. This achievement in achieving double-digit download speeds during satellite-to-smartphone testing brings us closer to the goal of seamless connectivity.
Chris Sambar, AT&T’s network head, expressed optimism about this development, emphasizing its significance in ensuring people across the United States can stay connected no matter where they are.
In the next phase of the project, AST aims to establish a connection between a phone and the BW3 satellite using a 5G signal. The prototype satellite, launched into low-Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in September, features the largest antenna among commercial satellites, spanning 693 square feet. However, its size and brightness have posed challenges for astronomers conducting research in the night sky.
AT&T is among the select group of US carriers exploring satellite-based solutions to extend connectivity to underserved rural communities. Verizon also partnered with Amazon in 2021 to leverage the Project Kuiper satellite network, while T-Mobile collaborated with SpaceX to conduct tests with devices compatible with the Starlink satellite system. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have expressed that existing phones should be compatible with their satellite services.