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AST SpaceMobile CEO gives business update

July 2, 2024

Abel Avellan, Founder, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile has written to partners, shareholders and even “future space-based cellular broadband network users” with an update on where the business is, especially following on the recent commitment by Verizon, which has joined AT&T in backing the company.

Avellan describes Verizon and AT&T as the US industry leaders and that, with the help of a portion of their 850 MHz spectrum, the satellite operator’s signals will not only cover 100 per cent of the US, the 850 MHz signals “[will] travel longer distances and penetrate deeper into buildings and through foliage compared to higher frequencies. The longer wavelengths of low-band spectrum allow for wider signal coverage, minimising dead zones and dropped calls. This will translate to a more consistent and reliable cellular experience, no matter your location.”

The AST signals are good for everyday “standard” smartphones.

He is not specific as to when the next batch of satellites will launch (AST has just one satellite in orbit currently) but it is widely expected that SpaceX will launch five of AST’s next-generation satellites probably around the end of September or early in Q4. The plan is then to add to the fleet by manufacturing four satellites monthly during 2025 and 72 satellites next year. It will need around 45 to 60 satellites in orbit before it can provide a comprehensive service.

The launch of the first five craft, and once the satellites are in their correct orbital slots “will enable up to a tenfold improvement in processing bandwidth on each satellite, unlocking opportunities for seamless space-based cellular broadband services worldwide.”

Avellan cites AST’s other partners around the world including Vodafone, Rakuten, Google, American Tower, Bell Canada, and more than 45 mobile network operators, noting “we’ve established a strong foundation […] that serve more than 2.8 billion subscribers”.

In its Q1 earnings report on May 15th, AST stated its first five satellites will enable a nationwide, non-continuous service across the US with more than 5,600 cells in premium low-band spectrum. AST is promising text, speech and streaming services.

However, while the promises are significant, it is also safe to say that AST is not alone. There are other operators, not least Elon Musk’s Starlink, which are also eying what they see as a major prize in connectivity.

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