AT&T Advances Satellite Direct-to-Phone Services with AST SpaceMobile Agreement

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AT&T takes a significant leap forward in its plans to offer satellite direct-to-phone services following the finalization of commercial terms with low Earth orbit (LEO) operator AST SpaceMobile. The agreement sets the stage for AT&T to provide non-terrestrial network (NTN) coverage through SpaceMobile’s constellation until 2030. Although a firm launch date for SpaceMobile’s network is yet to be confirmed, AT&T anticipates the delivery of the first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral this summer.

According to AT&T COO Jeff McElfresh, the collaboration aims to integrate space-based direct-to-mobile technology seamlessly with the existing mobile network, offering connectivity to consumers and previously unreachable locations. This move underscores AT&T’s commitment to harnessing emerging satellite technologies to expand service accessibility.

The commercial agreement marks a significant milestone in a partnership that traces back to 2018, with details publicly disclosed in 2020. SpaceMobile has utilized AT&T’s spectrum for testing its satellite direct-to-phone technology, achieving a breakthrough last April with a successful call between AT&T’s network in the US and Rakuten’s network in Japan.

AT&T’s support extends beyond technical assistance, as evidenced by its involvement in SpaceMobile’s funding. In January, AT&T, alongside Google and Vodafone, injected $206.5 million in funding to facilitate the commercial deployment of SpaceMobile’s network. Additionally, Chris Sambar, AT&T’s head of network, is set to join SpaceMobile’s board.

Founder, CEO, and chairman of AST SpaceMobile, Abel Avellan, expressed excitement over the collaboration’s potential to revolutionize connectivity, emphasizing the aim to deliver seamless service across the continental US.

For SpaceMobile, the impending launch of its network holds financial promise. Despite operating expenses exceeding $222 million in 2023, the company anticipates narrowing losses with the commencement of commercial operations. Quarterly updates indicate a rise in operating expenses, offset by one-off gains, hinting at progress towards financial sustainability.

With the imminent arrival of the first five satellites in Cape Canaveral, SpaceMobile gears up for the next phase, aiming to provide non-continuous service across the US. The company remains engaged in discussions with additional strategic partners, positioning itself for growth and innovation in the evolving landscape of satellite communications.

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