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Report: “Satellite phone connectivity is almost commonplace”

A report by Northern Sky Research (NSR) suggests that satellite phone connectivity is “on the verge of mainstream adoption”.

NSR says the latest collaboration agreements between SpaceX, T-Mobile, Apple and Globalstar have reinforced the notion of early deployments.

“Satellite operators AST SpaceMobile, Lynk and Omnispace are also making progress in partnership with mobile network leaders like Vodafone, Nokia and AT&T. Unlike the technically proven LEO-HTS satcom constellations (FSS band) requiring communication terminals, these new initiatives aim to fulfill the promise of direct satellite-to-regular handset communications via cellular spectrum and MSS in areas inaccessible by existing cellular towers. . Yet the architectural facets drive a wide range of functionality from asynchronous emergency texting to continuous broadband voice and data connectivity,” says NSR.

NSR highlights AST SpaceMobile and lists the potential:

· Retail partnerships: Agreements with Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Orange and others.
· Recent developments: Successful launch of the BlueWalker 3 test satellite with a 64 square meter multi-element antenna.
· Coverage and Throughput: With a large phased array antenna, AST expects to be able to deliver tens of Mbps of capacity per lighted area and potentially more via Focused Beamforming technology. The large antenna system can allow AST to close the link with sight angles as low as 20 degrees.

NSR adds: “AST’s initial shell will be equatorial, covering approximately 50 countries in low latitude regions, including countries in Africa where Vodafone operates (subject to regulatory approval). Based on NCAT3 calculations, the first equatorial shell will achieve maximum coverage of 12 degrees North/South [of the Equator] where 1.7 billion people reside. 61 percent of this population is rural. Continuous service will be available between approximately 7 degrees N/S latitude since a minimum of one satellite must be visible on average. Once AST fully deploys all three listed shells, the service will become continuously available between 60 degrees latitude, effectively covering 88% of the landmass and reaching over 99% of the world’s population.

SpaceX has already announced technology development and a partnership with T-Mobile and plans to beta test a service in late 2023. SpaceX will need to equip future v2 satellites with separate hardware, spectrum and software to support cellular space.

Globalstar has a relationship with Apple and claims that 85% of its satellite network will be dedicated to Apple.