AST SpaceMobile said today that it has made the first-ever 5G connection for voice and data between an unmodified smartphone and a satellite. AT&T, a key AST partner, participated in the demonstration, along with international wireless provider Vodafone.
The call was placed from Hawaii to Spain using AT&T spectrum and a Samsung Galaxy smartphone in a cellular dead zone. AST SpaceMobile said it also achieved download speeds of 14 Mbps, breaking its previous record of 10 Mbps.
Today’s news was the latest in a series of announcements that AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have made about satellite-to-cellphone service.
AST SpaceMobile and AT&T are not the only companies pursuing satellite-to-cellphone connectivity. T-Mobile has a partnership with SpaceX that has similar goals, but initial plans for that service call for text capability only.
AST told Telecompetitor at the time of the April news that the company will always go to market with a wireless provider. At that time, AST had 40 agreements and understandings with carriers globally with potential access to over two billion subscribers.
AST and the provider split the revenue tied to the offering, an AST spokesperson told us.
The AST service allows provider partners to better monetize their existing spectrum and subscriber base, the company said. In addition, it improves the providers’ existing networks by expanding coverage.
Regulators may need to reconsider some of their rules in view of developments involving satellite-to-cellphone service. The FCC earlier this year proposed a regulatory framework for the services.