AST SpaceMobile recruits Globe to test cellular satellite broadband

AST spacemobile rakuten
Image credit: AST SpaceMobile

Globe Telecom has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with US-based AST SpaceMobile to provide satellite broadband to standard mobile handsets in the Philippines.

The telco released a statement saying it is collaborating with the satellite startup to expand mobile coverage services to remote and underserved areas in the Philippines using AST SpaceMobile’s upcoming satellite network.

Gerhard Tan, Globe’s Network Strategy and Technology Enablement Director, described AST SpaceMobile’s satellite technology as a “breakthrough technology that could address the need for reliable and practical mobile broadband connectivity, especially in geographically isolated and connectivity-challenged areas in the Philippines.”

“The Philippines’ thousands of islands create formidable challenges to meet a growing demand for cellular broadband connectivity,” said Chris Ivory, Chief Commercial Officer of AST SpaceMobile, in a separate statement. “We believe our planned space-based network solution is well-suited to help

AST SpaceMobile’s satellite technology is, for all intents and purposes, a cellular base station in space that can carry voice, video, data and internet access via 2G, 4G and 5G bands. This is what allows it to connect to standard cellular devices, compared to services like Iridium that require specialized terminals that have enough RF and battery power to connect to the satellites.

Because smartphones operate at far lower powers than satellite phones, AST SpaceMobile’s idea is to launch LEOsats with larger arrays. Scott Wisniewski, the company’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer, explained to Via Satellite last month that its LEOsats will be around 700 square feet.

The company – which counts Vodafone and Rakuten among its backers – is planning to launch a fleet of 20 LEO satellites orbiting earth’s equatorial region starting in 2023. It launched a nanosatellite in 2019 to test the technology, and plans to launch its Bluewalker 3 satellite later this year for further testing.

Globe is the latest telco to team up with AST SpaceMobile. Rival mobile operator Smart Communications signed a similar deal last year, while Orange signed its own MoU with the company in March this year.

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