AT&T conducts ‘space-based’ call using a regular smartphone

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AT&T has achieved a significant milestone by successfully conducting the first-ever two-way audio call using satellites with a standard smartphone.

The call was made from AT&T in Midland, Texas, to mobile carrier Rakuten in Japan on a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone using AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite. 

Abel Avellan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, commented:

“Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space. 

While we take a moment to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, we remain focused on the path ahead and the pivotal next steps that get us closer to our goal of transforming the way the world connects.

I am immensely proud of our team and our incredible partners, whose unwavering dedication and tireless efforts have brought us to this pivotal moment.”

The breakthrough could help to increase cellular access in the US and developing countries. 

Typically, a mobile phone call requires nearby cell towers to provide service, which is not feasible in rural communities and national parks. The same technology could be a great solution to the same issues in developing countries, where satellites could act as a space-based network of cell towers.

“It was a unique thrill and honour to have the Rakuten team talk with Abel in a world-first direct-to-satellite experience. Congratulations to AST SpaceMobile and all of its strategic collaborators on this groundbreaking event,” said Mickey Mikitani, Chairman & CEO of Rakuten.

“As technological advancements like space connectivity become possible with pioneers like AST SpaceMobile, Rakuten will also progress even further along the road to democratising connectivity for all.”

AT&T aims to use satellites to provide global cellular broadband from 2G to 5G. The technology holds the promise of bridging the digital divide to enable everyone to participate in the global digital economy.

“AT&T’s heritage began with the birth of the telephone 147 years ago and has continued with many other firsts including trans-continental call, overseas call, call from the moon, and partnering to deliver the only network built with and for America’s first responders,” said Chris Sambar, Head of AT&T Network.

“We connect people to greater possibility, and this important milestone with AST SpaceMobile is a big step and we can’t wait to see what’s next in our space-based journey.”

Verizon, meanwhile, is partnering with Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite network for its alternative.

Amazon plans to deploy 3,236 satellites and the FCC requires at least half of them to be operational by July 2026.

T-Mobile’s choice of partner is SpaceX, which has already launched over 4,000 Starlink V2 satellites into orbit. T-Mobile claims that customers should have satellite access through most existing plans and existing phones should work with the satellite offerings.

While satellite offerings are not yet available for consumers, this latest successful test brings widespread access one step closer to reality.

(Image Credit: AST SpaceMobile)

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