AT&T Prepares to Offer a Smartphone Service From Satellites




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AT&T and AST SpaceMobile are forming a new deal to bring satellite-based internet to its customers’ smartphones. Through this agreement, AT&T will lease spectrum to AST SpaceMobile, creators of the largest satellite communications constellation in history, the BlueWalker 3. AT&T filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for regulatory permissions last Wednesday to lease its 850MHz and 700MHz low-band frequencies. 

AST SpaceMobile, who earlier this year made history by completing the first-ever satellite voice call via an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone, needs the use of AT&T’s wireless 850MHz spectrum to eliminate coverage gaps mostly experienced in rural areas without interfering with competing cellular networks.

According to AT&T, “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.

AST SpaceMobile is testing the company’s satellite tech with other mobile providers, such as Rakuten Mobile, Vodafone, and Orange. Apple already offers its customers an emergency SOS system using satellite wireless spectrums. SpaceX’s Starlink also recently partnered with T-Mobile to provide customers with satellite broadband features on select phones, which could signal a rise in competition between all of the above-mentioned providers.

At the beginning of 2024, AST SpaceMobile hopes to launch Bock 1, five commercial satellites via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. While Block 1 satellites are comparable in size to BlueWalker 3, an additional satellite constellation consisting of much larger 20 Block 2s will ascend to lower Earth orbit. 

The company has also requested the FCC grant it permission to “transmit V-band frequencies from its proposed low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to gateways for backhaul.” This request is still pending, but looks promising as last month the FCC proposed new rulemaking protocols called “Supplemental Coverage from Space”. 

There is no word yet when this deal will be approved nor when the companies could begin operations. Check back with Cord Cutters News for more information as new details emerge.

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