AST SpaceMobile touts 10 Mbps download speeds during tests in Hawaii

AST SpaceMobile demonstrated download speeds above 10 Mbps during tests of BlueWalker 3, the satellite designed to provide connectivity directly to unmodified cell phones via 3GPP-standard frequencies.

Engineers conducted download speed tests in Hawaii during June using multiple off-the-shelf smartphones, according to the company.

In a press release, AST SpaceMobile Chairman and CEO Abel Avellan called this latest achievement another groundbreaking moment in telecom history and an important step toward AST SpaceMobile’s goal of bringing broadband services to parts of the world where cellular coverage is either unreliable or doesn’t exist today.

The 4G LTE download speed testing, which used AT&T spectrum and Nokia Radio Access Network (RAN) technology, reached initial speeds up to 10.3 Mbps, with further testing of voice calls to AT&T employees.

“Successfully reaching double-digit download speeds during satellite-to-smartphone testing takes us one step closer to ensuring people across the United States will be able to stay connected no matter their location,” said Chris Sambar, head of AT&T Network, in a statement. “This milestone wouldn’t be possible without the overall focus and determination of the teams working daily to achieve our shared space-based vision of connectivity.”

The next major test activity involves the enablement of 5G broadband.

AST SpaceMobile expects to begin initial non-continuous commercial service in 2024 after the launch of its first five planned BlueBird 1 satellites, followed by the launch of 90 satellites for global, continuous broadband and direct-to-device service.

In April, AST SpaceMobile announced it had completed the first-ever space-based voice calls using everyday, unmodified smartphones. The call was made from the Midland, Texas, area to Rakuten in Japan using AT&T’s Band 5/850 MHz spectrum. 

AST SpaceMobile said that paving the way for these achievements was the successful deployment of BlueWalker 3. Now in its unfolded position, the satellite spans 693 square feet in size, a design feature critical to support a space-based cellular broadband network.

The company says it has agreements and understandings with more than 35 mobile network operators globally that have about 2 billion existing subscribers, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, Orange, Telefonica, TIM, Saudi Telecom Company, Zain KSA, Etisalat, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Millicom, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telstra, Africell, Liberty Latin America and others.

Vodafone, Rakuten, American Tower, Samsung NEXT and Bell Canada are also investors in AST SpaceMobile.