AT&T has successfully made a 5G phone call from space
AT&T home phone? Well, sort of. AST SpaceMobile, the cellular satellite company backed by the mobile phone company, has made a 5G satellite call. It’s the first-ever 5G connection between an unmodified smartphone and a space satellite.
On September 8, AST SpaceMobile used a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in a wireless dead zone on Maui, Hawaii, to contact a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain. Between AT&T’s 5G spectrum, Nokia’s network core, and AST SpaceMobile’s low-Earth orbit satellite, BlueWalker 3, the cell signal reached its destination.
This is a huge step forward in terms of global communication. The ability to link a low-Earth orbit satellite to regular smartphones could eliminate the idea of dead zones. This means reliable, high-quality connectivity in remote areas, perhaps for the first time, which will be a boon for emergency services.
Competition for 5G home internet is fierce and interest in satellite connectivity is growing. T-Mobile and Space Starlink has more than 5,000 Internet satellites in orbit and more are scheduled to launch in the near future. Amazon plans to launch a constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites, currently codenamed Project Kuiper, and Vodafone wants to use Project Kuiper’s high-bandwidth, low-latency network to improve communications services in Africa and Europe, two regions where the company has high concentrations of customers.
AST SpaceMobile plans to launch five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of 2024.
“Since launching BlueWalker 3, we have achieved full compatibility with phones made by all major manufacturers and support 2G, 4G LTE and now 5G,” Abel Avillan, CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said in a statement. “Making the first successful 5G cellular broadband connections from space directly to mobile phones is another important advance in communications that AST SpaceMobile has pioneered. We are more confident than ever that space cellular broadband can help transform Internet connectivity.” around the world by bridging gaps and connecting the unconnected.
In the past few months, AST SpaceMobile has achieved several historic milestones. In April, the organization completed the first voice call from space using regular smartphones. In June, AST SpaceMobile said BlueWalker 3 reached initial download speeds of more than 10 Mbps. Since then, the test program has had more successful voice calls and 4G video calls as well as file downloads and text messages.
“These moments are extraordinary milestones in the history of communications,” AT&T Network President Chris Sambar said in a statement. “These first-of-its-kind innovations would not be possible without ecosystem-wide collaboration. We are all working together to realize the shared vision of space connectivity for consumers, businesses and first responders around the world.”
“Vodafone is striving to bridge the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa,” said Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group CEO. “By bringing the world’s first 5G space connection to Europe, we have taken another important step in realizing this ambition. We are excited to be at the forefront of space technology through our partnership with AST SpaceMobile.”
“We congratulate AST SpaceMobile on its latest incredible achievement in completing a 5G voice call from space,” Tommy Oito, head of mobile networks at Nokia, said in a statement. “While we are of course proud that our AirScale portfolio plays a key role in supporting these networks, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture that satellite cellular broadband can provide critical connectivity to underserved communities around the world.”
AST SpaceMobile shared a video commemorating 5G connectivity and other milestones on YouTube: