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Satellite

AST SpaceMobile to test satellite-based services on AT&T's spectrum

The FCC will allow AST SpaceMobile to test transmissions from regular smartphones directly to its new satellite, the company announced. It appears AST SpaceMobile's testing in the US will use spectrum licenses owned by AT&T.

"We appreciate the diligent support of the FCC in providing the experimental license for our upcoming satellite launch," AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan said in a release issued Tuesday. "Together with other testing around the world, this license will enable us to conduct some of our most important testing here, at home, in the United States."

(Source: NASA)
(Source: NASA)

AST SpaceMobile said it will conduct the testing "using 3GPP lowband cellular frequencies and Q/V-band frequencies," though it did not provide details. However, the company's FCC application, approved Monday, lists three spectrum licenses that are owned by AT&T.

Brian Goemmer, founder of spectrum-tracking company AllNet Insights & Analytics, said AST SpaceMobile will use AT&T's 846.5-849MHz license in Midland, Texas; its 845-846.5MHz license in Honolulu; and its 788-798MHz license in Pine Springs, Texas. The last one is notable because it's connected to FirstNet, a government agency working with AT&T to build a nationwide broadband network for public safety users.

Light Reading first reported of a connection between AST SpaceMobile and AT&T in 2020. However, the companies have remained relatively quiet about their work together. Officials from AST SpaceMobile and AT&T did not immediately respond to questions from Light Reading about the planned testing.

According to FierceWireless, AST SpaceMobile will also test its service in Japan with Rakuten Mobile. AST SpaceMobile has also announced deals with the likes of Vodafone, Smart Communications, Africell and UT Mobile.

AST SpaceMobile said it expects to begin testing its offering after it launches its new BlueWalker 3 sometime this summer. The company had hoped to launch the satellite sometime in March or April, but that effort was delayed.

The company's announcement this week caps a few busy months for AST SpaceMobile. Cogent Communications' CFO, Sean Wallace, recently signed on as AST SpaceMobile's new CFO. And the company inked a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Globe Telecom in the Philippines.

Broadly, both Lynk and AST SpaceMobile promise to connect existing, unmodified cell phones to their low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites by conducting transmissions in the licensed spectrum bands of their mobile network operator partners. Lynk has promised to launch commercial services by next year, while AST SpaceMobile has promised a 2023 commercial launch.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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