AST SpaceMobile has been working on creating the first (and so far only) space-based cellular broadband network. Approximately 50 percent of the world population has no access to cellular broadband and the company has taken a huge step forward towards providing service. The AST SpaceMobile team has made history by placing the first-ever space-based voice call using a standard, unmodified smartphone!
“Today, we have taken another major step in mobile communications. 30 years after Vodafone sent the world’s first text message, we supported AST SpaceMobile in successfully making the first-ever direct-to-smartphone test call using satellite communications. This is just the start. As a lead investor in AST SpaceMobile, we will continue to break technological boundaries by connecting many more millions of people across the planet when the service becomes commercially available.” – Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group Chief Executive
The two-way voice call was completed using the BlueWalker 3 satellite with the help of engineers from Vodafone, Rakuten, and AT&T. AST SpaceMobile in Midland, Texas was able to exchange Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) and network information directly to the satellite system to place a successful call to Rakuten in Japan. BlueWalker is the largest commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit. The team tested a number of compatibility tests on numerous types of smartphones as well as other devices.
“Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space. While we take a moment to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, we remain focused on the path ahead and pivotal next steps that get us closer to our goal of transforming the way the world connects.” – Abel Avellan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AST SpaceMobile
Head of AT&T Chris Sambar stated his excitement as another accomplishment in the history of phones in general that his company has helped create well over a century ago. “AT&T’s heritage began with the birth of the telephone 147 years ago and has continued with many other firsts including: trans-continental call, overseas call, call from the moon, and partnering to deliver the only network built with and for America’s first responders.”
Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Mickey Mikitani said “It was a unique thrill and honor to have the Rakuten team talk with Abel in a world-first direct-to-satellite experience,” although further details on the specifics of this historical conversation have yet to be released. My guess is it contains a lot of excited scientific minds asking if they could hear one another before celebrating.