Satellite

AST SpaceMobile, a provider of direct-to-cellphone satellite service, now has two U.S. wireless providers lined up to offer its service. Verizon has inked a deal with AST SpaceMobile that is quite similar to the one that AST SpaceMobile already has with AT&T.

The satellite operator also has deals with international carriers to offer the service, which enables a conventional cellphone to send and receive communications via satellite in areas where conventional cellphone service is not available.

The deal with Verizon calls for Verizon to commit $100 million to AST SpaceMobile, including $35 million of convertible notes and $65 million in commercial prepayments, $45 million of which are subject to “certain conditions.”

The Verizon news comes just two weeks after AT&T announced a definitive agreement to offer AST SpaceMobile direct-to-cellphone satellite service. AT&T announced an investment in AST SpaceMobile earlier this year and the companies have been working together on technology trials for even longer.

The press release issued today about the Verizon deal doesn’t reference AT&T but does note that AST SpaceMobile will be able to use spectrum from “two major U.S. mobile operators.” The spectrum to be used is in the 850 MHz band.

According to the release, the 850 MHz spectrum that Verizon will use to support the offering covers the continental U.S. When we asked AT&T about this, a spokesperson said the company plans to use portions of its Band 5 850 MHz spectrum in certain locations.

In a prepared statement, AT&T Head of Network Chris Sambar said “AST SpaceMobile’s news today reinforces the shared commitment to providing nationwide space-based broadband direct to everyday cellphones.

“Together with AST SpaceMobile we have agreed to welcome another mobile operator in the U.S. to bring in more spectrum and more coverage to create an even better solution and enhance service capabilities.”

It will be interesting to see if AT&T and Verizon reach roaming agreements with each other involving their spectrum that will underlie the AST SpaceMobile service.

Asked about this, an AT&T spokesperson said, “We are still in the initial stages of analyzing spectrum use and sharing but we look forward to working with AST and Verizon to help bring coverage to the U.S.”

AST SpaceMobile’s deal with Verizon is a bit of a surprise, considering that Verizon already has a deal with Amazon involving its planned Kuiper low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite service. That deal calls for Verizon to use the service for fixed wireless backhaul in rural areas. Potentially it could have been extended to include direct-to-cellphone service. But we haven’t seen any indication that Amazon has been exploring that technology.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile has an agreement with SpaceX to offer direct-to-cellphone service via SpaceX’s Starlink LEO satellite service.

Updated with information from an AT&T spokesperson. Telecompetitor also reached out to AST SpaceMobile and Verizon for additional details and will publish an update whenever we hear back from them.

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