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Rakuten Mobile awarded LEO mobile test licences

November 21, 2022

By Colin Mann

Cellular telco Rakuten Mobile has obtained preliminary experimental test station licences to conduct mobile communication tests and preliminary verification in Japan using AST SpaceMobile’s low earth orbit satellite, BlueWalker 3.

AST SpaceMobile is building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard unmodified mobile phones. In the future, Rakuten Mobile aims to offer mobile communication services using AST SpaceMobile’s planned network to connect to smartphones in mountainous areas and remote islands that are commonly out of range of mobile communication services, as well as to strengthen communication network resilience in times of disaster.

On September 11th, 2022 (Japan Standard Time), AST SpaceMobile successfully launched the test satellite BlueWalker 3 into orbit from the USA. On November 14th, AST SpaceMobile also announced the successful deployment of the communications array for its test satellite, BlueWalker 3, in orbit.

In order to conduct communication tests between the test satellite launched by AST SpaceMobile and gateway earth stations in Japan and to perform preliminary verification with smartphones, Rakuten Mobile made applications to the Tohoku Telecommunications Bureau for a Gateway Experimental Test Station licence (equivalent to a mobile base station) and to the Kanto Telecommunications Bureau for a Mobile Terminal Experimental Test Station licence (equivalent to a portable mobile base station), and both applications have now been approved.

Upon receiving the licences, Rakuten Mobile will begin to prepare a gateway earth station (equivalent to a mobile base station) in Fukushima Prefecture to test and verify direct communication between BlueWalker 3 and mobile devices in mountainous areas in Hokkaido.

To enable testing with Rakuten Mobile and other carriers, Rakuten Symphony will provide a variety of software from its Symworld product portfolio to AST SpaceMobile to be integrated into the company’s satellite system and enable the company’s space-based cellular broadband network. The software to be integrated includes Rakuten Symphony’s vRAN (virtualised Radio Access Network) software, OSS (Operations Support Systems) and BSS (Business Support Systems) software.

Rakuten Mobile will continue its efforts to expand Rakuten’s coverage area and improve communication quality so that customers can enjoy comfortable and convenient communication services anywhere.


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