Vodafone and AST SpaceMobile reveal space-based mobile network

AST SpaceMobile and Vodafone Group unveiled plans to launch the first phase of its space-based mobile network in 2023.
Vodafone mobile network
AST SpaceMobile has secured the funding to take the venture to this next stage, which will cover the 49 largest countries in the equatorial regions, Abel Avellan, chairman and chief executive officer of AST SpaceMobile, said.

AST SpaceMobile will connect standard mobile phones at 4G and 5G speeds using AST SpaceMobile’s space-based network. Today, more than five billion mobile subscribers constantly move in and out of wireless coverage, and AST SpaceMobile’s solution will fill these coverage gaps to enable people to stay connected whilst on the move.

Traditional satellite systems require expensive specialised satellite phones or ground antenna systems, which is different to AST SpaceMobile’s patented technology, where all that is needed is the phone in your pocket.

The first tranche of AST SpaceMobile’s launch plans will involve the use of 20 satellites to offer low-latency mobile connectivity that can be accessed by approximately 1.6 billion people across a vast geographical region.

The initial service will target an area North and South of the equator, including rural and remote areas of a number of markets where Vodafone will integrate the technology into the services provided by its Vodacom, Safaricom and Vodafone brands. AST SpaceMobile will also apply for regulatory approval to launch the service in India.

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Providing affordable mobile coverage for everyone requires a blend of technologies and infrastructure, from traditional masts to small cells, balloons and satellites at the edge of space.”

“AST SpaceMobile will ensure that remote communities in many sub-Saharan African countries can have access to the latest digital services.”

AST SpaceMobile has secured up to $462 million in gross proceeds in additional financing. This will come from existing investors in the company including Vodafone, Rakuten and American Tower as well as new financial investors including UBS O’Connor and a broad base of financial institutions.