A Texas company called AST Space Mobile managed to successfully transmit a 4G LTE signal from space that was picked up by “everyday, off-the-shelf smartphones,” the company said announced this morning. The satellite AST in use, called BlueWalker 3 (BW3), will try a 5G connection for its next big test. The company says the recent test was a “world first.”
Tests were conducted in Hawaii on AT&T’s spectrum using Nokia RAN technology, and the signal, broadcast by AST’s satellite in low Earth orbit, reached speeds of up to 10.3 Mbps. That’s fast enough for some video streaming, general internet use, and more casual cell phone use.
AST’s tests followed a recent April test by the same company where it was able to route an audio call via satellite between a Samsung Galaxy S22 in Texas and an iPhone in Japan.
The BW3 is a massive 693-square-foot commercial communications array — about the size of a two- or three-car garage — and the largest ever deployed to low Earth orbit, the AST release says. It works with the same 3GPP standard found in ground-based mobile networks.
The achievement is “an important step toward AST SpaceMobile’s goal of bringing broadband service to parts of the world where mobile coverage is either unreliable or simply non-existent,” said AST Chairman and CEO Abel Avellan, who said that this would allow users to text and call, surf the web, download files, and even stream video using a signal broadcast from space.