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AT&T, Google and Vodafone hand over $155M to satellite startup

In this satellite roundup: AST SpaceMobile scores over $200 million in investments; satellite IoT connections will grow to 20 million over the next four years; Starlink has a busy 2024 so far launching 46 satellites.

Kelsey Ziser

January 24, 2024

2 Min Read
SpaceX satellite in launch
(Source: Official Space X Photos on Flickr, CC2.0)

AT&T, Google and Vodafone invest over $155 million in AST SpaceMobile

Satellite startup AST SpaceMobile has garnered a $155 million investment from AT&T, Google and Vodafone. AST SpaceMobile said it also plans to access $51.5 million from its senior-secured credit facility for a total investment of $206.5 million. AT&T and Google represent new support while Vodafone is an existing investor.

The startup issued a public offering of $100 million of common stock after the announcement, reported The Wall Street Journal.

AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3 satellite is deployed in low-Earth orbit; the company plans to launch five satellites in the first quarter of 2024. The BlueWalker 3 satellite has demoed 2G, 4G LTE and 5G calls, and 14 Mbit/s download speeds per 5MHz channels.

In May 2023, AT&T issued an FCC filing to provide "AST SpaceMobile a lease to some of its 850MHz A and B Block spectrum as well as some of its lower 700MHz B and C Block spectrum," reported Light Reading's Mike Dano. Dano noted this is an important step for AST to begin offering commercial services. AT&T first announced its partnership with AST SpaceMobile in 2020.

Lynk Global and SpaceX have also announced plans or moved forward with satellite-direct-to-phone communications in 2023, according to Light Reading's sister company and research firm Omdia.

Related:AT&T and T-Mobile are in a heated race to space

In addition to AT&T, Google and Vodafone, wireless companies including Rakuten, American Tower and Bell Canada have previously invested in AST SpaceMobile. The satellite startup has partnered with 40 mobile network operators globally.

Satellite IoT connections to reach 20 million in 2027, Omdia reports

In addition to supporting wireless calls, satellites will be critical to supporting the increase in IoT connections.

Satellite IoT connections are forecast to increase from 2.8 million in 2018 to over 20 million in 2027, a 28% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to Omdia. "Satellite IoT" refers to "satellite technology to enable direct-to-satellite links with terrestrial Internet of Things (IoT) devices or gateways," said Omdia.

The high increase of satellite IoT connections is due to growth in verticals such as transportation and logistics, remote monitoring, and energy and utilities, said the research firm. Omdia forecasts the satellite IoT market will reach nearly $1.2 billion in 2027.

Starlink launches 46 satellites

Starlink has wasted no time in expanding its low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation this year with two satellite missions already completed. Starlink launched 23 Internet satellites on January 7, via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This marked the 16th launch for this Falcon 9 booster; its upper stage continued on to bring the satellites to their final LEO location.

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

An additional 23 Starlink satellites launched on January 14, on a Falcon 9 rocket, marking SpaceX's 300th successful launch. This was the 12th launch for this Falcon 9 booster, seven of which carried Starlink satellites. There are over 5,250 operational spacecraft in SpaceX's Starlink broadband mega-constellation, according to Space.com.

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

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