AT&T has committed to spending $20 million with satellite-to-cellphone provider AST SpaceMobile, subject to certain conditions, as part of a deal through which AT&T also will invest in the company. AT&T’s investment was not revealed, but it will be part of a total of $155 million investment from the provider, Google and global cellular provider Vodafone.
Also today, AST SpaceMobile announced the launch of a public offering of $100 million of its Class A common stock.
AST SpaceMobile calls itself the inventor of direct-to-device satellite service, which eliminates the need to use a dedicated device for satellite connectivity. AT&T, Vodafone and over 40 other cellular providers plan to use AST SpaceMobile to provide connectivity to their customers in areas lacking cellular service.
AT&T’s commitment to spend $20 million with AST SpaceMobile hinges on the launch and successful initial operation of the first five commercial satellites. Vodafone made a similar commitment to spend $25 million on AST SpaceMobile offerings.
Google’s plans for AST SpaceMobile involve working with the company on product development, testing and implementation plans for direct-to-device connectivity for Android and “related devices.”
AT&T already has been working with AST SpaceMobile on progressively sophisticated technology trials, including voice connectivity between an unmodified smartphone and a satellite, 10 Mbps LTE satellite-to-cellphone calls, and 5G voice and data connectivity between an unmodified smartphone and a satellite.
AST SpaceMobile, which will rely on low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, isn’t the only LEO satellite company pursuing satellite-to-cellphone connectivity. SpaceX has a similar deal with T-Mobile involving Starlink, but initially will only support texting.
Vodafone previously invested in AST SpaceMobile. Other previous investors include American Tower, Bell Canada and Rakuten. In addition, Nokia is a “strategic partner.”
Additional details about the AST SpaceMobile investment from AT&T, Google and Vodafone can be found in this press release.