20-satellites to bring 4G and 5G to 16 billion people
Vodafone and AST Spacemobile intend to launch a constellation of 20 satellites to beam 4G and 5G to the 49 largest countries in the equatorial regions, including Democratic Republic of Congo Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The space-based mobile network is expected to be operational by 2023 and will connect standard 4G and 5G smartphones without any need for specialised hardware.
The initial service will target an area North and South of the equator, including rural and remote areas of a number of markets.
Vodafone will integrate the technology into the services provided by its Vodacom, Safaricom and Vodafone brands.
Subject to regulatory approval in each market, these will include DRC, Ghan,; Mozambique; Kenya, and Tanzania. AST SpaceMobile will also apply for regulatory approval to launch the service in India.
AST Mobile stated: “More than five billion mobile subscribers constantly move in and out of wireless coverage, and AST SpaceMobile’s solution will fill these coverage gaps to enable people to stay connected whilst on the move. This is a significant breakthrough in helping to bring affordable mobile connectivity to more than half of the world’s population that do not have internet on their phone.
“Traditional satellite systems require expensive specialised satellite phones or ground antenna systems, which is different to AST SpaceMobile’s patented technology, where all that is needed is the phone in your pocket”.
A Vodafone statement added: “Vodafone wants to ensure that our customers are always connected and everyone benefits from a digital society. This is why we are a lead, strategic partner of AST SpaceMobile, which is uniquely positioned to provide universal mobile coverage to rural areas in Africa, and in the future, Europe, further extending our leading network. The space- based mobile network will also enable us to provide instant communications in the event of a natural or humanitarian disaster”