September 27, 2023
Vodafone has made what it says is the world's first space-based 5G call, placed using AST SpaceMobile’s test satellite, BlueWalker 3 and an unmodified handset.
According to Vodafone, the call took place on Sept. 8 from Hawaii to a Vodafone engineer in Spain, from an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone.
AST’s BlueWalker 3 satellite is the largest commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit, specifically designed to provide 4G and 5G connectivity and allow for data services and internet voice calls.
The achievement is being heralded by the companies as a crucial milestone in their mission to connect remote areas of the globe using low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, with these intended to connect cellular antennas back to the companies’ core telecom networks.
“Vodafone is striving to close the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa,” said Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group’s chief executive. “By making the world’s first space-based 5G call to Europe, we have taken another important step in realizing that ambition. We’re excited to be at the forefront of space technology through our partnership with AST SpaceMobile.”
The project is also part of AST SpaceMobile’s plan to prove the efficacy of its satellites, with BlueWalker a prototype predecessor to its planned commercial satellites, BlueBird. The company plans to launch five of its BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of 2024, to begin building its cellphone-compatible broadband constellation.
In June, AST completed its first 4G call from space to a mobile, while in a separate test, the company broke its previous space-based cellular broadband data session record by achieving a download rate of nearly 14 Mbps.
This latter test, the company said, has the potential to “connect millions of people in the remotest regions to the internet for the first time using existing mobile phones.”
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like