AT&T and AST SpaceMobile To Launch First Space-Based Broadband Network for Cell Phones

This summer, AST SpaceMobile plans to deliver its first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into low Earth orbit. The initial five satellites aim to enable commercial services including voice calls, texts, and video calls—even in places like national parks and rural highways where you can't get a traditional signal today.

If you’re looking for a solution to those nasty “dead zones” that can affect your cell phone, you might find the answer in outer space.

Dallas-based tech giant AT&T and Midland’s AST SpaceMobile announced that they’re partnering to provide a space-based broadband network direct to “everyday cell phones.”

“Space-based direct-to-mobile technology is designed to provide customers connectivity by complementing and integrating with our existing mobile network,” AT&T COO Jeff McElfresh said in a statement. “This agreement is the next step in our industry leadership to use emerging satellite technologies to provide services to consumers and in locations where connectivity was not previously feasible.”

The companies said the agreement extends until 2030.

This summer, AST SpaceMobile plans to deliver its first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral in Florida for launch into low Earth orbit. The initial five satellites will help enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated with several key milestones, AT&T said.

Industry-first moments during 2023 included the first voice call, text, and video call via space between everyday smartphones, AT&T said.

Connectivity for national parks, rural highways, and other remote areas

The two companies have been on this path together since 2018.

Chris Sambar, head of network for AT&T, will soon be appointed to AST SpaceMobile’s board of directors, AT&T said. The company will continue to work directly with AST SpaceMobile on developing, testing, and troubleshooting this technology to help make continental U.S. satellite coverage possible.

“Working together with AT&T has paved the way to unlock the potential of space-based cellular broadband directly to everyday smartphones. We’re thrilled to solidify our collaboration through this landmark agreement,” Abel Avellan, AST SpaceMobile founder, chairman, and CEO, said in a statement. “We aim to bring seamless, reliable service to consumers and businesses across the continental U.S., transforming the way people connect and access information.”

AT&T said the move is a key step on its path to providing even more expansive connectivity on America’s largest wireless network.

The company noted that there are many situations where dead zones outside will become a thing of the past thanks to the reach of a satellite solution providing two-way connectivity. It said someday consumers will feel a greater peace of mind knowing they have connectivity in places such as wilderness areas, including our national park land, rural highways, and other hard to reach locations around the country.

AST SpaceMobile said it’s building the first and only global cellular broadband network in space to operate directly with standard, unmodified mobile devices based on our extensive IP and patent portfolio and designed for both commercial and government applications.

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