In an unprecedented technological feat, Vodafone, in collaboration with AST SpaceMobile, has successfully conducted the world’s first space-based 5G voice call.
The breakthrough call was made from Hawaii to Spain, linking a Vodafone engineer with Jose Guevara using an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone via AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite. BlueWalker 3, the largest commercial communications array in low Earth orbit, facilitated this historic communication milestone.
In a related achievement, AST SpaceMobile, with Vodafone’s support, shattered its previous space-based cellular broadband data session record by achieving an impressive download rate of nearly 14 Mbps. This cutting-edge technology harbors the potential to extend internet connectivity to millions of individuals in remote regions for the first time, leveraging existing mobile phones.
Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group Chief Executive, emphasized Vodafone’s commitment to narrowing the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa. The successful space-based 5G call to Europe signifies a crucial step towards achieving this goal, showcasing Vodafone’s dedication to staying at the forefront of space technology through their strategic partnership with AST SpaceMobile.
Earlier this year, AST SpaceMobile achieved a groundbreaking 4G call from space to a mobile, setting the stage for today’s significant advancement. Looking ahead, AST SpaceMobile is on track to launch five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of 2024, further advancing its space-based communication capabilities.
Meanwhile, Vodafone’s engineers are actively testing the AST SpaceMobile service in Spain. Vodafone envisions AST SpaceMobile’s terrestrial infrastructure in Spain as a pivotal element in establishing a future satellite network, encompassing a control centre and customer traffic management, particularly in remote land-based areas within Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to their direct-to-smartphone satellite communication efforts with AST SpaceMobile, Vodafone and Vodacom plan to utilize low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to connect geographically dispersed cellular antennas to their core telecom networks. This visionary step aims to extend connectivity and bolster telecommunications infrastructure, painting a promising picture of connectivity beyond the bounds of our planet.