The FCC will permit AST SpaceMobile to test transmissions from smartphones directly to its new satellite. Apparently, AST SpaceMobile’s testing in the U.S. will use spectrum licenses owned by AT&T.
AST SpaceMobile said it will conduct the testing “using 3GPP low-band cellular frequencies and Q/V-band frequencies,” though it did not provide details. However, the company’s FCC application, approved Monday, lists three spectrum licenses that are owned by AT&T.
Brian Goemmer, founder of spectrum-tracking company AllNet Insights & Analytics, said AST SpaceMobile will use AT&T’s 846.5-849MHz license in Midland, Texas; its 845-846.5MHz license in Honolulu; and its 788-798MHz license in Pine Springs, Texas. The last one is notable because it’s connected to FirstNet, a government agency working with AT&T to build a nationwide broadband network for public safety users.
Light Reading first reported of a connection between AST SpaceMobile and AT&T in 2020. However, the companies have remained relatively quiet about their work together. Officials from AST SpaceMobile and AT&T did not immediately respond to questions from Light Reading about the planned testing.
According to FierceWireless, AST SpaceMobile will also test its service in Japan with Rakuten Mobile. AST SpaceMobile has also announced deals with the likes of Vodafone, Smart Communications, Africell and UT Mobile.
AST SpaceMobile said it expects to begin testing its offering after it launches its new BlueWalker 3 sometime this summer. The company had hoped to launch the satellite sometime in March or April, but that effort was delayed.
Broadly, both Lynk and AST SpaceMobile promise to connect existing, unmodified cell phones to their low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites by conducting transmissions in the licensed spectrum bands of their mobile network operator partners. Lynk has promised to launch commercial services by next year, while AST SpaceMobile has promised a 2023 commercial launch.
The authorization comes as the company prepares for the planned summer 2022 launch of BlueWalker 3, its test satellite with an aperture of 693 square feet that is designed to communicate directly with cell phones via 3GPP standard frequencies.
“We appreciate the diligent support of the FCC in providing the experimental license for our upcoming satellite launch,” said AST SpaceMobile Founder, Chairman and CEO Abel Avellan. “Together with other testing around the world, this license will enable us to conduct some of our most important testing here, at home, in the United States.”
AST SpaceMobile continues to pursue additional authorizations with the FCC related to its planned constellation of BlueBird satellites.
AST SpaceMobile’s mission is to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers moving in and out of coverage zones, and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world’s population who remain unconnected. Partners in this effort are leading global wireless infrastructure companies, including Rakuten Mobile, Vodafone and American Tower.
The company’s announcement this week caps a few busy months for AST SpaceMobile. Cogent Communications’ CFO, Sean Wallace, recently signed on as AST SpaceMobile’s new CFO. And the company signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Globe Telecom in the Philippines.
About AST SpaceMobile:
AST SpaceMobile is 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. Our engineers and space scientists are on a mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers and finally bring broadband to the billions who remain unconnected. For more information, follow AST SpaceMobile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Watch this video for an overview of the SpaceMobile mission.