In a world first, Vodafone and AST SpaceMobile have successfully completed a space-based 5G voice call.
The call, which took place from Hawaii to José Guevara, a Vodafone engineer in Spain, was made using an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone and AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite. BlueWalker 3 is the largest commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit.
Breaking Records and Bridging the Connectivity Gap with Space-based 5G Technology
In a separate test, AST Space Mobile, supported by Vodafone, broke its previous space-based cellular broadband data session record by achieving a download rate of nearly 14 Mbps. This new technology has the potential to connect millions of people in the remotest regions to the internet for the first time using existing mobile phones.
Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group Chief Executive, said: “Vodafone is striving to close the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa. By making the world’s first space-based 5G call to Europe, we have taken another important step in realising that ambition. We’re excited to be at the forefront of space technology through our partnership with AST SpaceMobile.”
In June this year, AST SpaceMobile successfully completed the first 4G call from space to a mobile. Today’s advancement is part of AST SpaceMobile’s path toward its goal of launching five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of 2024.
Meanwhile, Vodafone’s engineers are also working to test the AST SpaceMobile service in Spain. Vodafone expects AST SpaceMobile’s terrestrial infrastructure in Spain to play a key role in establishing a future satellite network This includes a control centre and the management of customer traffic, which covers remote land-based areas within Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.
Complementing its direct-to-smartphone satellite communications work with AST SpaceMobile, Vodafone and Vodacom also plans to use low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to connect geographically dispersed cellular antennas back to the companies’ core telecom networks.