Skip to main content

AST & Science's SpaceMobile to Beam 4G / 5G Directly to Devices

Rakuten and Vodafone have become the lead investors in a venture to extend mobile coverage to more people and devices across the planet, using the first mobile broadband network that will be broadcast from space. The venture also has other investors includeing American Tower; Cisneros; Samsung NEXT; and founder Abel Avellan. A Japanese news site reported that Rakuten will be the biggest investor.

Rakuten has already said that they want to provide 100% geographic (not population based, which is easier) coverage in Japan. This point was emphasized by Rakuten Mobile's CTO Tareq Amin in a recently released video.

Vodafone's press release also mentioned some of the reasons they have invested in AST:

Branded SpaceMobile, the low-Earth-orbit (LEO), low-latency satellite network from AST & Science will be the first in the world to connect directly to standard smartphones. The company holds an extensive patent and IP portfolio for its ground and space technologies.

AST & Science will initially offer 4G services to partner networks globally, with 5G delivered in the future. The SpaceMobile network will enable seamless roaming to and from terrestrial cellular networks at comparable data rates without any need for specialised satellite hardware.            

In addition to its investment in AST & Science, Vodafone has agreed to a strategic partnership and will contribute technical, operational and regulatory expertise in support of the global deployment of SpaceMobile.

AST & Science successfully tested its SpaceMobile technology aboard the BlueWalker 1 satellite, launched in April 2019, and has been further validating the technology following that initial flight.

The new investment brings the total capital raised by AST & Science to US$128 million, including the early investments from Cisneros and founder Abel Avellan. Barclays served as financial advisor to the company.

Johan Wibergh, Group CTO, Vodafone explained (see tweet above) why this is so important because your existing smartphones can connect to the satellites.

According to Abel Avelan, CEO of AST, the company's low-Earth orbit satellites will be installed between 500 and 700 km above ground level. It is said that Japan can be covered by four satellites, and not only ships but also aircraft in the area can communicate without special antennas.

Some competitors, such as HAPS Mobile, are aiming to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles with base stations in the stratosphere. He noted that such an effort would require 40-50 facilities.

According to AST, it is expected that the number of deployed devices (satellite) will be small, which is one of the merits. One of its strengths is that it can cover the world in addition to Japan.

According to Avelan, the satellites will be modular, making them cheaper to manufacture. He said it will be less burdensome for carriers in emerging and developing countries as well as in developed countries.

According to the company, about 30 patents have been patented for its modular design, which "changes the way satellites are made. When our new system comes out, existing satellite systems will be thrown out of windows." Show confidence.

According to Avelan, satellites in geosynchronous orbit will have a delay of about 600 ms, but communication delays from AST low-orbit satellites will be about 20 ms.

The power consumption of the smartphone is about the same as a base station about 3 km away. According to the design of the satellite, the aperture is made larger so that radio waves can reach a greater distance, thereby reducing power consumption on the smartphone side.

There is no need to attach special antennas to aircraft, and AST does not intend to sell to airlines or aircraft manufacturers because its partner is a mobile phone operator. "If the aircraft lands, the radio waves will reach and the mobile phone will connect. Just like that, the radio waves from low-Earth orbit satellites will reach the cabin." This is due to the size of the satellite and the size of the aperture on the satellite antenna.

While this is all impressive, there are lots of open questions on how it will be done. Surely there is some amazing trick that most people have missed that will come handy here. Like what it says above "According to the design of the satellite, the aperture is made larger so that radio waves can reach a greater distance, thereby reducing power consumption on the smartphone side.". I am not the only one with questions, Dean Bubley has written a thread on same:

We have written about other initiatives to increase the coverage range. Telstra and Ericsson for example announced that they have doubled the range of LTE cell from 100 km to 200 km recently. On the other hand the SpaceMobile solution seem to be able to travel between 500 & 700 km.

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) has also started the Non-Terrestrial Connectivity Solutions (NTCS) group to look at 4G / 5G solutions based on HAPS and LEO satellites. Vodafone and Telefonica are working group leads for that project.

Related Posts:


Popular posts from this blog

Laser Inter-Satellite Links (LISLs) in a Starlink Constellation

When we first talked about Starlink back in 2019 , we saw in the video that the concept involved laser communication to communicate between the satellites. While the initially launched satellites did not have the laser communication mechanism built in, it looks like they are being added to the newer ones.  A report from Fast Company in late 2021 said: One of the next big upgrades in telecom will involve satellites firing lasers at each other—to beam data, not blow stuff up. The upside of replacing traditional radio-frequency communication with lasers, that encode data as pulses of light, can be much like that of deploying fiber-optic cable for terrestrial broadband: much faster speeds and much lower latency. “Laser links in orbit can reduce long-distance latency by as much as 50%, due to higher speed of light in vacuum & shorter path than undersea fiber,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted in July about the upgrade now beginning for that firm’s Starlink satellite constellation. The

CSI-RS vs SRS Beamforming

In an issue of Signals Flash by Signals Research Group (SRG), they talked about 2 different types of MIMO. Quoting from their journal, "CSI-RS versus SRS. Those operators that have tested or made token use of MU-MIMO leverage a flavor of MU-MIMO that is based on CSI-RS. The MU-MIMO network we tested was based on SRS, which makes it far more likely to observe sixteen spatial layers (versus eight)." I reached out to Emil Bj√∂rnson, Visiting Professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Associate Professor at Link√∂ping University to see if he has explained this in any of his videos. Here is what he said: " I'm not talking about 3GPP terminology in any of my videos. But you can listen to the slides that starts around 12:40 in this video (embedded below) . If you are looking for CSI-RS vs SRS based MU-MIMO, then jump to around 12:40 in this video where you can see CSI-RS being referred to as "grid of beams" and SRS is similar to the other option, which is t

IEEE 802.11be Extremely High Throughput (EHT), a.k.a. Wi-Fi 7

We have been writing about Wi-Fi for a long time, weather it's to do with indoor connectivity , competition with 5G or just a name change to something simpler. When we last wrote about WiFi 6, a.k.a. 802.11ax, we were expecting a quick adoption of the technology in the industry. We are still not there yet.  You know what's strange? None of the new @madebygoogle gadgets from yesterday support Wi-Fi 6. Not the Pixel 5, not the Pixel 4a 5G, not the Nest Audio, and not the new Chromecast. — Ry Crist (@rycrist) October 1, 2020 Take for instance the new iPhone 12 supports Wi-Fi 6 in all their models as one would expect but none of the new Google Pixel phones (4a, 4a 5G and 5) support it. In fact none of the new Google devices support it. Which is rather bizarre. While we are still looking forward to Wi-Fi 6 becoming widespread, IEEE has already started working on the successor of 802.11ax, 802.11be - Standard for Information technology--Telecommunicati