Google is joining the space race.
The tech giant has thrown its financial support behind Starlink competitor, AST SpaceMobile, to help the company with product development, testing, and implementation.
Google is the latest Big Tech player drawn into the area of delivering space-based internet and phone service. SpaceX’s Starlink is working with T-Mobile on tests to make calls from space, while Amazon has launched test satellites to trial its own service, expected to launch next year.
Google has been relatively quiet while other companies are diving into the possibility of global connectivity through low-earth orbit satellites. In a time when fast and reliable internet access is essential for everyday life, eliminating dead zones would be a game-changer in the digital age.
The company may have started laying groundwork for future plans when it released Android 14. The operating software, which was released last year, has satellite connectivity support. So far, the functionality hasn’t been available.
Google’s show of backing AST SpaceMobile could mean that’s soon to change.
In the funding round, Google joined AT&T and Vodafone in investing $206.5 million in credit and revenue commitments to AST SpaceMobile.
Over the last year, AST SpaceMobile has made significant strides in its goal to offer smartphone service from low-earth orbit satellites. In April, the company completed the first-ever space-based voice call with regular smartphones, and in June its BlueWalker 3 satellite reached initial download speeds above 10 Mbps.
In addition, AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have previously worked together to make the “first ever” 5G connection between an unmodified smartphone and a space satellite in September.
Google and AST SpaceMobile said they had agreed to work on product development and testing for SpaceMobile network connectivity on Android and related devices.
Google has previously shown interest in providing connectivity to more people, even investing in projects like the failed balloon-based internet venture Loon.
Google wasn’t immediately available for comment.