US tech business AST SpaceMobile, helped by having raised $462 million in April, is opening a new facility at Space Park, Leicester, UK.
AST is owned by entrepreneur Abel Avellan who is best known as the founder and CEO of Emerging Markets Communications (EMC) which he sold in 2016 for around $550 million.
AST wants to build and launch 170 satellites into a low Earth orbit in order to provide a space-based cellular broadband network. AST’s goal, it says, is to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by today’s 5 billion mobile subscribers and bring broadband to approximately half of the world’s population, who remain unconnected, in collaboration with world-class mobile network operators, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten and American Tower.
AST SpaceMobile’s UK MD is Stephen Gibson who says its satellites could provide the main mobile signal for areas of the developing world with limited or no wireless and mobile infrastructure, and fill in gaps in the developed world where existing mobile signals drop out.
The first 20 satellites will be orbited in 2023 and cover 49 countries, with the following 150 craft following over the next few years.