Vodafone engineer makes satellite broadband call

AST SpaceMobile and Vodafone have completed a space-based 5G voice call, in what the latter company has claimed to be a world first.

According to a statement, the call was from Hawaii to Spain. It was made using an “unmodified” Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone, in conjunction with AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite. The company claims that BlueWalker 3 is the “largest commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit.”

Discussing another test taking place simultaneously, a spokesperson said: “AST Space Mobile, [also] supported by Vodafone, broke its previous space-based cellular broadband data session record by achieving a download rate of nearly 14 Mbps.

“This technology has the potential to connect millions of people in the remotest regions to the internet for the first-time, using existing mobile phones.”

Vodafone group chief executive, Margherita Della Valle, said: “Vodafone is striving to close the mobile usage gap for millions of people across Europe and Africa. By making the world’s first space-based 5G call to Europe, we have taken another important step in realising that ambition.”

Going forward, AST SpaceMobile plans on launching five commercial BlueBird satellites in the first quarter of next year. Meanwhile, Vodafone and Vodacom plan to use low Earth orbit satellites to connect “geographically dispersed cellular antennas back to the companies’ core telecom networks.”