Vodafone has boldly entered the 5G space race, pitting it against the likes of Amazon and Elon Musk. Its goal is to help launch a network of satellites that can transmit 5G mobile data anywhere in the world, from space.
Vodafone has joined Japanese technology giant Rakuten in a $25m (£20m) investment into Texas-based Avellan Space Technology & Science (AST). AST’s 5G satellite is set to be branded SpaceMobile. The low-orbit, low-latency satellite network will be the first in the world to connect directly to standard smartphones.
The space mobile broadband network will offer speeds of 4G and 5G networks and plans to turn ordinary mobile phones into satellite phones, with Vodafone as the lead investor.
No-one is left behind
AST initially plans to offer 4G services globally via its space satellite, with 5G to be delivered in the future. The SpaceMobile network will enable seamless roaming to and from terrestrial cellular networks without any need for specialized satellite hardware.
“SpaceMobile will be particularly transformative to the growing US$1 trillion annual global mobile market because it will eliminate the coverage gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers moving in and out of connectivity every day,” said Abel Avellan, AST & Science chairman and CEO. “It will also help the world’s most under-served communities to access the latest mobile services much sooner than predicted, helping more people to access the digital economy.”
Whilst Vodafone has already become the lead investor in AST, it has also agreed to a strategic partnership and will contribute technical, operational and regulatory advice to support the global deployment of SpaceMobile.
“At Vodafone we want to ensure everyone benefits from a digital society – that no-one is left behind,” explained Nick Read, CEO, Vodafone Group. “We believe SpaceMobile is uniquely placed to provide universal mobile coverage, further enhancing our leading network across Europe and Africa - especially in rural areas and during a natural or humanitarian disaster - for customers on their existing smartphones.”