AST & Science has won a contract from Vodacom, the South African subsidiary of Vodafone, to supply connectivity to a space-based cellular broadband network capable of linking standard mobile phones.
AST also announced that it would become a publicly-traded business in Q1 2021 and rename itself AST SpaceMobile. The company is in the process of merging itself through a special purpose acquisition company New Providence Acquisition Corp.
AST wants to launch a constellation of 20 satellites to connect 4G and 5G smartphones without any special hardware. Vodafone is understood to be looking to enable connectivity for Vodacom, Safaricom and its own 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.
As part of this New Providence merger AST expects to collect up to about $462 million through the transaction which will include fresh investment cash from investors such as Vodafone, Rakuten, American Tower and UBS O’Conner along with other investors. Each of these have agreed to purchase shares priced at $10 each.
Abel Avellan, AST SpaceMobile chairman and CEO, will continue to lead the business post-transaction, according to the news release.
“AST SpaceMobile’s low latency, space-based platform will allow hundreds of millions of people across the world to access high-speed, cellular broadband service in areas where there was previously no such service,” Avellan said in a statement. “Working directly with our strategic partners, we are on track in executing on phase one of our commercial launch as we set the stage to bring our game-changing space network for global mobile connectivity.”
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.”
AST’s ambitions talk about extending its promised service to the 49 major countries either side of the Equator including the Democratic Republic of Congo Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Tanzania. Each of these has a Vodacom presence.
Vodafone said SpaceMobile’s initial network will cover 1.6 billion people and will use 20 satellites to offer “seamless, low-latency mobile connectivity”.